Ritz talks up free trade with Europe

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Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz spoke via teleconference from London, England last Tuesday about his trade mission in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany, but the focus of questions remained on the ongoing free trade talks between Canada and the European Union.

“When I talked to the ministers that I met through ANUGA (the world’s largest food show), state by state they all agreed that there’s a lot more strength in Canada and Europe completing this,” he said. “When I talked to European industry, they’re excited by the fact that Canada will be a strong ally with them in trade negotiations.”

A big focus of the talks has been on beef, because the European Union wants their beef imports growth hormone free. With most Canadian meat being produced with hormones, the quota for beef must be big enough for Canadian producers to set up hormone-free herds.

“There’s still a demand around the world for beef that has had those type of injections, but having said that, anybody who’s wanting to get good, solid access into the European Union, will make that decision based on what’s in their own best interests,” Ritz said. “The product we were cooking at the trade show was hormone free and supplied by a number of different operators in Canada, and it was going over extremely well.

“The bottom line for us is it has to be commercially viable,” Ritz said.

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