EDMONTON- Alberta Premier Alison Redford is hailing a trade deal between the European Union and Canada as a breakthrough for the country’s economy.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the agreement-in-principle with the European Commission president in Brussels on Friday.
“This is a big deal. Indeed it is the biggest deal our country has ever made,” Harper announced.
The text of the so-called CETA pact remains a private document that still requires “drafting and fine tuning.”
Redford says Alberta negotiators have been at the table throughout the discussions.
And while she hasn’t seen all the details yet, the premier, who was speaking in Fort Saskatchewan Friday, says Alberta has been committed to ensuring the deal opens markets for dairy, beef, pork and wheat.
“We’ve been very aligned with the federal government in terms of what we are trying to achieve so we’re very happy to see today, another step forward.”
Here in Alberta it means beef, pork and bison producers will have greater duty-free access to the European Union’s 500 million consumers.
“The European market is a very lucrative market. You know, a lot of wealth within Europe and it’s nice to be able to tap into it in a bigger way than we have been able to in the past,” said Greg Bowie, vice-chair of Alberta Beef Producers.
Barley producers are also pleased with the potential agreement. They say exports should increase and the increased demand for Alberta beef and pork means producers will need more feed barley.
“It’s a win-win situation for a lot of industries in Alberta and Canada for sure,” added Matt Sawyer.
However, cheese and dairy producers say the deal would cause production for those sectors to drop. Alberta Milk General Manager Mike Southwood estimates about two to 2.5 per cent drop in production.
“When you look and you put that into context with the numbers we’re hearing, that’s probably the equivalent of 250 farms, if you took it from just a farm equivalent,” Southwood said. “So, substantial.”
Alberta’s Agriculture Minister, Verlyn Olson, says he understands the concerns being raised, but adds “we’re very confident that we have an extremely healthy, competitive industry here in the dairy sector.
“It makes me raise my eyebrows a little bit at that kind of number,” Olson added Friday.
The agreement still needs to be ratified. All provinces have to sign on in order for that to happen. The process is expected to take between 18 and 24 months.
With files from Vassy Kapelos, Global News and The Canadian Press.