Canada, EU to push ahead with trade talks

Wed Dec 15, 2010 2:17pm EST
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Free trade negotiations between Canada and the EU are more ambitious than most such talks, particularly when tackling sensitive sectors that each side wants to protect, Canadian Trade Minister Peter Van Loan said on Wednesday.

Van Loan and European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said they had agreed in a stock-taking exercise that, after five rounds of talks, there was enough common ground to justify continuing the process. The next round is set for January in Brussels.

The officials would not say how they plan to resolve some of the thornier issues not yet discussed, which include agricultural subsidies and procurements.

But in an interview with Reuters, Van Loan said the way officials were dealing with sensitive areas is what would set this deal apart from other, more conventional ones.

"This has been fairly conventional negotiating with one exception ... Where we have run into difficult issues, on many of them the approach on both sides has been, instead of being less ambitious, we've said let's try and be more ambitious," Van Loan said.

"That's why I say this will be the broadest trade agreement we've ever entered into."

The two sides aim to strike a deal by the end of 2011 that they say would generate extra annual income of about 11 billion euros ($14.2 billion) for the EU and 8 billion euros for Canada.

Although two-way trade is relatively small, a deal with the EU would be a major breakthrough for Canada as it seeks to diversify markets in the face of weaker U.S. demand for its exports. It has also begun free trade talks with India, with a second round of negotiations scheduled for March.   Continued...

<p>Government House leader Peter Van Loan stands to speak during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 7, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>