Canada says EU trade deal won't come next week, issues remain

Fri Jun 7, 2013 11:38am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada and the European Union are still deadlocked over a long-delayed free trade agreement, officials said on Friday, casting more doubt on the pact as the EU shifts focus to a bigger deal with the United States.

The deal was initially supposed to have been finished by the end of 2011, but there is no end in sight, largely because the EU is resisting Canadian demands for much greater beef access.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to Ireland, France and Britain next week and will then a G8 summit in Northern Ireland on June 17-18, an event that EU diplomats in April tipped as the ideal occasion to sign the trade deal.

"We're not there yet. We're down to the last few issues ... and I don't expect that we'll be a position to sign a deal next week," said Harper's chief spokesman Andrew MacDougall.

Ottawa and Brussels started talks on opening up access to each other's economies in 2009 and say a deal could generate around $28 billion in trade and new business a year.

The deal is politically important for Canada's ruling Conservatives, who portray themselves as the only party capable of protecting and growing the economy.

Sources close to the talks said farmers in the west of Canada, the heartland of the Conservative Party, initially sought the right to export between 80,000 and 100,000 tonnes of beef a year to the EU.

This alarmed the cattle industry in Ireland and France and EU officials said they can offer a little more than 40,000 tonnes a year. Canada has moderated its initial demand, but the two sides are still apart.   Continued...

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Blair Gable