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Federal minister says Korean trade deal good for Okanagan fruit growers and vintners

Canada
Canada's International Trade Minister Ed Fast speaks about the recently signed trade deal with South Korea Friday at Summerhill Winery in Kelowna as Summerhill CEO Ezra Cipes looks on.
— image credit: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Canada's international trade minister is vowing to open up new markets around the world for Canadian goods and services in light of the successful recent negotiation of a free-trade agreement with South Korea.

Ed Fast was in Kelowna Friday to talk up the recently signed agreement between Canada and Korea and said trade continues to be a focus for the federal government.

"In 2006 when we formed government Canada had five trade agreements. Now we have more than 43 trade agreements in place," said Fast, speaking at the Summerhill Winery.

During his remarks to a group of about 30 people—many representing the agriculture sector here — Fast said the agreement with Korea will see an immediate drop of the 15 per cent tariff on Canadian ice-wine entering that county. And he predicted tariffs on other wines could be eliminated in a year or two.

That was good news to Ezra Cipes, CEO of Summerhill.

He said Korea is a nation where the appreciation of wine is growing and with a population o 50 million people, the agreement could create a much needed foothold into the Asian market where Canada has no other free-trade agreements.

"It's really good news for the Canadian wine industry," said Cipes.

The deal was also hailed by cherry grower David Geen.

While it will be a few years before fresh B.C. cherries will be allowed into Korea tariff free (the deal does allow for frozen fruits), it is good news on the heels of a recent protocol allowing for the sale of limited amounts of B.C. cherries into the even more lucrative Chinese markets.

Fast said Canada is known around the world as a source of good quality and safe food and agreements like the one with Korea will only enhance that. And he urged those in the room to act now if they are considering exporting in future.

"Start making strategic partnerships now," he said, adding Ottawa is not finished seeking trade deals with other countries.

His House of Commons colleague, Okanagan-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan agreed, saying with agreements in place it is now up to the private sector to do its part to capitalize on the efforts of government.

"We are cutting the red tap so go out and make the green (money)," said Cannan, a member of the government's trade committee.

Cannan accompanied Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Seoul last weekend when Harper signed the trade deal with the president of South Korea.

 

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