IN THE NEWS ~ Fight to ditch tariff on shipbuilding not over

PUBLICATION: The Chronicle-Herald
DATE: 2009.03.04
SECTION: Business
PAGE: C5
BYLINE: Tom Peters Business Reporter

Fight to ditch tariff on shipbuilding not over

The first attempt to eliminate a protective tariff for shipbuilding from a free trade deal with the European Free Trade Ass-ociation fell short of its goal Tuesday.

An amendment to the deal was introduced to the international trade committee in Ottawa by NDP trade critic Peter Julian but was ruled out of order.

The shipbuilding industry is concerned that phasing out the 25 per cent tariff on foreign vessels brought into Canada will hurt the Canadian industry.

It says the measure will open the doors to shipbuilding countries like Norway, part of the European association, which has had its industry strengthened in past years through government subsidization.

It is also concerned the tariff will be on the table when Canada continues free trade talks with Korea.

Ottawa signed a deal in principle with the association in 2007 under which the tariff will be phased out over 15 years.

Peter Stoffer, NDP shipbuilding critic, said Tuesday there will be an attempt to have the amendment introduced in the House of Commons within the next few days.

The Sackville-Eastern Shore MP said he was disappointed the measure didn't get support, especially from the Liberals.

"We would like to know what justification the (committee) chair had, and you can always challenge the chair but you need a majority to do that, but unfortunately we didn't get it," he said. "I was hoping they (Liberals) would do the right thing but they didn't."

Karl Risser, president of Local 1 of the Canadian Auto Workers / Marine Workers Federation, told the international trade committee in a recent presentation that Canadian policies do not support the industry to the level required in the global market.

"It leaves Canadian shipbuilders to compete largely for domestic work," he said. "In the work we do we support transportation, fisheries, oil and gas and most importantly we support government procurement."

Mr. Risser said it is disturbing to hear politicians say Canadian shipyards are not able to compete with Asian and European yards.

The Canadian industry can grow and be sustainable, with the proper policies, he said.