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Northumberland chapter says CETA will hurt local cheese makers

The Council of Canadians Northumberland chapter is highlighting the impact the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will have on local cheese makers.

The deal is expected to be provisionally applied as of July 1.

CETA will mean that an additional 18,000 tonnes a year of European cheese will eventually be allowed into Canada tariff-free.

The CBC adds, “CETA also requires Canada to reallocate 800 tonnes currently held by other countries to the EU, on top of the 13,471 tonnes of European cheese that already enter tariff free under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. Imports make up about five per cent of Canada’s current market. The new EU cheese will bump that to nine per cent (7.5 per cent will be from Europe.)”

In an op-ed published in Northumberland Today, chapter activist Rick Arnold notes, “Empire Cheese and Butter, located near Campbellford, is a small co-op that relies for its cheese production on milk provided by eight local dairy farms. Empire products are high-quality and are currently to be found on several shelves in food-related businesses in towns like Cobourg and Port Hope. However, under CETA, Empire’s products are in danger of being supplanted by a flood of cheaper European cheeses. Multiply Northumberland’s example by the 47 small and medium-sized cheese plants to be found in various parts of Ontario, and one can see that hundreds (if not thousands) of rural jobs are on the line.”

Furthermore, The Globe and Mail reported this morning that Phil Horgan, the European Union commissioner for agriculture and rural development, is keeping watch on how cheese import permits are granted.

That article notes, “Mr. Hogan, who is in Canada to lead a delegation of 60 European food exporters, said the EU is keeping a close eye on how Ottawa doles out new cheese-import permits [for the 18,000 tonnes of additional cheese allowed into Canada]. …Canadian dairy farmers and processors want Ottawa to give all the new quota to domestic cheese makers, allowing them to import cheese from Europe, arguing that they are the ones most harmed by the trade concessions made to Europe.”

Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois says, “Priority should be given to small dairy processors, which are mostly family-owned fine-cheese makers. Farmer-owned co-operatives should also be considered in the mix as well, given their links to production. If not done right, we could see our dairy-processing sector suffer. CETA makes this sector highly vulnerable and many great Canadian artisan cheese makers could disappear.”

But The Globe and Mail article adds, “Giving these permits to Canadian cheese makers doesn’t sit well with many importers, who say that could give the domestic industry too much control. Mr. Hogan said he warned Canadian officials against causing ‘unintended consequences’ when it allocates import quotas.”

In his op-ed, Arnold says, “CETA is not a done deal, as all European Union nations have yet to ratify it.” That’s because all 38 national and regional parliaments have to ratify the deal for it to be fully implemented. If that doesn’t happen, it is possible that even the provisional application of the deal would be annulled.

The Council of Canadians continues to work with European allies to stop the ratification of CETA in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Wallonia and other parts of Europe.