EU envoys back launch of Canada trade talks

Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:04am EDT
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By Darren Ennis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers should agree to launch talks next week on a bilateral trade pact with Canada worth around $27 billion per year after EU envoys endorsed the plan on Thursday, diplomats said.

"The foreign ministers should give the green light at their meeting on Monday with the formal launch at the EU-Canada summit in Prague on May 6," a diplomat told Reuters following a meeting of 27 EU ambassadors in Brussels.

France expressed some reservations to starting the negotiations under current economic conditions, but Paris' lifted its veto on Friday after its concerns were met, diplomats said.

Canada and the 27-nation EU first agreed in October 2008 to seek what they have called a "comprehensive economic agreement" to boost two-way trade by lowering tariffs on goods and services, and encompassing areas such as investment, regulatory co-operation and rules of origin.

A joint study by Brussels and Ottawa showed in October that the EU and Canada would stand to gain about $27 billion a year by liberalizing trade further.

The study estimated the annual real income gain by 2014 would be 11.6 billion euros for the EU, representing 0.08 percent of EU gross domestic product.

The gain for Canada would be about 8.2 billion euros Canada, representing a bigger share of Canadian gross domestic product at 0.8 percent.

The launch of talks between Brussels and Ottawa would also be seen as giving a major political boost to dwindling world trade suffering from the worst economic crisis since the second World War.

(Reporting by Darren Ennis, editing by Dale Hudson)