Farmers concerned over licensing landscape in EU-Canadian trade agreement

Farmers in Ireland and across Europe are reluctant to support the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada under its current guise.

They are particularly struck by proposals that would require European companies to purchase import licences from Canadian entities, in order to get beef and dairy goods into the North American country.

The European Dairy Association (EDA) has expressed concern that Canadian cheesemakers will be the ones allowed to allocate the licences to European firms. It is also worried about the idea of reserving 30% of licences for new entrants into the Canadian market.

Another organisation that is taking a cautious approach is the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), which was initially optimistic about the agreement. Gerald Quain, Chairman of the organisation’s Dairy Committee, spoke to AgriLand about the deal.

“The whole thing was supposed to be an open-ended agreement but with the licence issue around it, it mightn’t be as free flowing as it appears,” he said.

If you want to import into Canada, or vice versa, certain groupings or companies hold the licence and you have to go to them to get the rights to import and you have to pay them so much just for the licence.

“That would be quite a concern because you don’t know how much they’re going to charge and there will be someone in between getting a handout for doing absolutely nothing. But it’s a thing that works both ways – for them and for us,” Quain said.

Meanwhile, the EDA’s Secretary General, Alexander Anton, also told AgriLand: “One of the ideas of the Canadians is to have the licensing done by the cheese producers of Canada, which from a European perspective doesn’t make sense. And the other idea is to increase the percentage of licences that will be allocated to newcomers on the market – which, in our view, are not brilliant ideas.

We like the idea that there will be competition, but we are worried there will be too many newcomers and not enough traditional importers – someone who has been in the business for at least three years.

“Normally, these traditional importers have the logistics, the market intelligence and the contact with the [Canadian] retailers and the industry to sell. Newcomers don’t have that knowledge.”

Under CETA, an additional 18,000t of European cheese will be eligible for entry into the Canadian market without tariffs – representing about 0.5% of the total annual cheese production in the EU.