Canada, EU won't finalize trade deal at talks this week: source

Mon Feb 4, 2013 3:00pm EST
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada and the European Union will not be able to conclude a long-delayed free-trade deal at ministerial talks set for Ottawa this week, a source close to the negotiations told Reuters on Monday.

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. Industry sources say the two sides still have differences over areas such as agricultural exports, intellectual property and public procurement.

For Canada, the pact would be the biggest since it signed the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Mexico in 1994.

Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will meet in Ottawa this Wednesday and Thursday.

"I don't want you to think that on Thursday we're going to announce an agreement - that's clearly not going to happen," said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

"We're still working on narrowing the gaps and that's what we doing and that's what this meeting is for," the source said, adding that no timeline for finalizing the deal has been set.

Canada, which says free trade with the EU would boost two-way trade by 20 percent, is keen to diversify its trade away from the United States, which takes 75 percent of all Canadian exports. The EU takes just more than 10 percent.

For the European Union, the deal would act as a template for a possible agreement with the United States, which has an economy 10 times the size of Canada's.   Continued...