The members of the Canadian Shipowners Association (CSA) voiced their concern that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union may hurt Canada’s short sea shipping industry, its workers and suppliers and shippers.
As explained by CSA, Canadian ship owners have invested in 14 state of the art high-efficiency vessels worth over $700 million, which are positioned to play a part in the prosperity that CETA will bring.
However, “while the CETA deal is good for the Canadian economy,” said CSA President Robert Lewis-Manning “it cannot be allowed to jeopardize the Canadian short sea shipping capacity that the domestic marine industry, labour and the government have collectively developed to meet Canada’s unique domestic shipping challenges.”
Recent government support through the removal of the twenty-five per cent import duty on foreign-built vessels facilitated CSA member purchase of these vessels with leading edge environmental technologies and safety features.
The CSA said it was concerned about “the lack of transparency in the CETA negotiations and the fact that access to trades between Canadian ports may be given to EU carriers, who employ international labour at much lower rates, do not pay Canadian taxes or employ Canadian workers and are not regulated to rigorous Transport Canada safety and operating standards for Canadian flagged vessels.”
CSA added that Canadian flag short sea shipping vessels are specially designed for Canada’s inland and coastal waters and to meet Canadian requirements.
“Unable to leave Canada and compete against cheaper international competition, the Canadian crewed, Canadian owned and regulated Canadian flagged domestic fleet will be hurt if Canadian cabotage rules are reduced to allow any international vessels access to Canadian markets.
“Our mariners possess unique local knowledge that ensures that Canadian waters are safely transited, respected and protected,” said Lewis-Manning.
“We need to ensure that these jobs remain in Canada.”
The CSA expressed these views before the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade in February 2014.
The newly formed Canadian Maritime and Supply Chain Coalition has also voiced their worries concerning CETA, and ”the lack of transparency that Canada’s government has had when making this deal.”
According to the Coalition, CETA will allow EU beneficially owned Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessels and so-called European National Flag to trade freely between Canadian ports without any restrictions on origin of the crew, or level of wage and working conditions, and thus completely halt the Canadian maritime transport sector’s growth.
On 18 October 2013, the EU and Canada reached a political agreement on the key elements of CETA. The agreement’s goal was, among others, to remove over 99% of tariffs between the two economies and create a sizeable new market access to opportunities in services and investment, according to the statement made by the EU.