Lot of work left on Canada-EU trade talks, says senior official

Fri Oct 5, 2012 3:53pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A large amount of work remains to be done on a proposed free trade treaty between Canada and the European Union, which is supposed to be concluded by the end of the year, a senior Canadian official was quoted as saying on Friday.

Canada, keen to diversify its exports away from the United States, says a deal with the European Union would increase two-way trade by 20 percent.

Ottawa wants to conclude negotiations by the end of 2012 but the two sides have yet to settle contentious issues such as access for agricultural goods, opening up procurement markets and the extension of pharmaceutical patents.

"There is a large amount of work that needs to be done," chief Canadian negotiator Steve Verheul told civil society activists in a phone briefing, adding that the two sides were in constant contact.

Verheul's comments were passed on to Reuters by Stuart Trew of the left-leaning Council of Canadians, which opposes the proposed deal.

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist was also on the call and quoted Verheul as saying trade ministers from both sides planned to meet in Europe in mid-November.

Canada and the EU -- who opened negotiations on the treaty in 2009 -- have always said that the most tricky issues would be left to politicians to sort out.

"The pressure to conclude the agreement this year is readily apparent. There appears to be a bit of a disconnect, however, between the aggressive timeline and the number of outstanding issues," Geist told Reuters.   Continued...