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Harper Says Canada Support for EU Pact Almost Unanimous

Canadian businesses are almost unanimous in their support for the proposed Canada-European Union trade agreement-in-principle signed last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

Speaking to business students in Toronto today, Harper said “support for the agreement is virtually unanimous across various sectors,” referring to the pact he signed Oct. 18 in Brussels with European Commission President Jose Barroso.

The agreement, which would need the approval of EU national governments and the European Parliament as well as Canadian provinces, will eliminate about 98 percent of all Canadian and EU tariff lines on the first day of its implementation.

Harper said while Canada hasn’t “identified a lot of really obvious losers,” the government has agreed to give compensation related to three industries: dairy, generic drug manufacturing and fishing.

Canada will compensate cheese producers for the “short-and mid-term impact,” Harper said, adding that the pact’s “actual effect on the industry’s Canadian market share in our judgement would be relatively small.”

Canadian provinces, which purchase large amounts of generic drugs for their health-care programs, will see higher costs, Harper said. “These impacts won’t be felt for ten years and they will be, once again, in our judgement relatively small,” he said.

Harper also said that under the deal, Canada will phase out requirements that fish caught off the Atlantic coast be processed in Canada. “There probably will be some impact there, but the benefits of having a whole range of tariffs removed on fish products is just going to be comparably much, much bigger,” he said.

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