Canada PM heads to Brussels to try to seal delayed EU trade deal

Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:15am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will fly to Brussels on Thursday in a bid to seal a free trade treaty with the European Union, his office said on Wednesday, signaling an end to negotiations that have dragged on much longer than planned.

Canada initially said a deal would be struck by December 2011. It then pushed that back to December 2012 as the two sides struggled to overcome disagreements over pharmaceuticals, financial services, patents as well as beef and dairy exports.

Earlier on Wednesday, both sides said they would soon complete the talks on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement(CETA), which officials say could generate around $28 billion in trade and new business each year.

"The Prime Minister will travel to Brussels to meet with the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, with the goal of concluding the CETA negotiations," said a statement from Harper's office.

Harper is due to fly out on Thursday and return on Friday.

"They wouldn't make a trip if there wasn't good news to come," a European official told Reuters.

Canadian negotiators had to balance the needs of a beef sector which wanted to boost exports to the EU with the concerns of the dairy sector, which said it feared that domestic cheese makers could be swamped if the EU quota were raised.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada group expressed anger and disappointment at an agreement it said would give the EU an additional 32 percent of the Canadian fine cheese market.   Continued...

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks before a dinner hosted by the National Congress of Italian Canadians (NCIC) for Italy's Prime Minister Enrico Letta in Vaughan, Ontario September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Jon Blacker