07 May 2009

There’s more to this than a few seals

Given the origins of and the scope of the trade talks starting between Canada and the European Union, Danny Williams’ refusal to participate is even more bizarre than it first appeared.

Whatever is going on with the government party and its supporters – including voice of the cabinet minister crowd who seem obsessed with clubbing seals these days - it ain’t really about seals.

The provincial government seems intent on ignoring both the reality of the province’s dependence on trade with the United States and the growing concerns about American trade protectionism. Of the $13-plus billion in exports to the top 10 trading partners for the province, the United States consumed $10 billion or 77%.  The U.S. accounts for 70% of all Newfoundland and Labrador international exports.

This, from the Economist, says much:

You can see why Canada would want to lessen its dependence on America, which bought 75.5% of its exported goods last year and provided 63.4% of its imported ones. Yanked into recession by America, Canada worries that trade will suffer from protectionism (in the form of new Buy American provisions and country-of-origin labelling requirements on farm products) and Washington’s moves to toughen up border security.

The deal could open new markets for Canadian exports of agricultural, fish and forestry products in addition to fish, aerospace, automotive and other exports. 

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is refusing to participate in the talks as part of the Canadian delegation.  The Premier claims it is because he doesn’t trust the Prime Minister to look after the province’s concerns about European opposition to the seal hunt, the push for custodial management of fisheries outside the 200 mile Canadian exclusive economic zone and impact of a EU shrimp tariff on Newfoundland and Labrador shrimp exports.

Since all those things are on the table plus a great deal more directly affecting the future of the provincial economy, it’s bizarre that the provincial government would leave all those issues entirely in the hands of someone they supposedly don’t trust.

Bizarre indeed.