Canada, EU say face hard work on trade treaty

Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:53pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada and the European Union will need to put in "quite a lot of hard work" to settle several key differences in talks on a proposed free trade deal, a senior official said on Thursday.

Canada, keen to diversify its exports away from the United States, opened a ninth round of negotiations with the European Union in Ottawa on Monday on a deal that both sides hope will be ready next year. The talks are due to end on Friday.

Officials from both sides said they had made significant progress in many areas but still needed to settle disagreements on issues such as investment protection, intellectual property, access for agricultural goods, and opening up local and national procurement markets.

"We are optimistic. We are not discounting the difficulties ... What is left to do is probably the hardest part but also the most valuable and it will require quite a lot of hard work," one official told reporters.

"We are not at a stage where we can tell you we have solved 80 percent of the areas and there is 20 percent left ... we have something relatively important open in most areas of the negotiation ... it's the only way you can do an agreement of this complexity."

Negotiators from both sides said the differences stemmed in part from a shared determination to lift tariffs and liberalize trade in areas they had not tacked in previous bilateral deals.

Another official said that in most of the areas of contention, just one or two issues remained to be resolved.

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. Ottawa says a treaty with Europe would increase two-way trade by 20 percent.   Continued...