EU, Canada near trade pact after breaking impasse

Thu Oct 17, 2013 5:33pm EDT
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By Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union and Canada are expected to close talks on a multi-billion-dollar trade deal on Friday that will integrate two of the world's biggest economies, if they can overcome final disagreements ranging from medicine patents to feta cheese.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will meet in Brussels to wrap up talks that started in 2009 but stalled in early 2013 over demands for greater access to each other's markets.

"The negotiations have really moved forward, which means that the two leaders will meet tomorrow with the aim of concluding," Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said.

Harper and Barroso are set to announce the deal - the EU's first with a member of the G7 club of major economies - at a news conference at 1230 GMT on Friday, if they can agree final issues including protecting Europe's distinctive geographically defined products such as feta and Gorgonzola cheeses.

Other tough files included patents for pharmaceuticals, beef exports and access to public procurement tenders.

People familiar with the talks said that such issues had now been resolved, but exact details will still need to be finalized

after a political deal between Harper and Barroso.

"There is still lots to be ironed out from a technical point of view, but the political differences look to be bridged to allow the deal to go ahead," said a person close to the discussions who did not want to be identified.   Continued...

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso attends a news conference in Lampedusa October 9, 2013. REUTERS/Calogero Lampo