Canada, EU fail to settle differences over free trade pact
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada and the European Union failed to settle their differences on a proposed free trade deal this week at top-level talks to hammer out an agreement that is already well behind schedule.
Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht spent Wednesday and Thursday in Ottawa discussing contentious issues including agricultural exports, intellectual property and public procurement.
The EU indicated Canadian demands for increased access for its agricultural products were one of the major obstacles.
"There are still a number of important gaps to be bridged before an agreement is reached," EU trade spokesman John Clancy said in an e-mail on Friday.
"Quality and substance of the negotiations remain paramount over speed. On agricultural issues, we are now in a more realistic zone, but we are still not there yet."
Talks on an agreement started in 2009 and were supposed to have wrapped up by the end of 2011, a date that was later pushed back to the end of 2012.
Adding to the pressure on Ottawa, European Union leaders agreed on Friday to push for a free-trade pact with the United States - a market 10 times the size of Canada's.
Canada, which says free trade with the EU would boost bilateral trade by 20 percent, wants to diversify its trade away from the United States, which takes 75 percent of all Canadian exports. The EU takes just over 10 percent. Continued...