EU-Canada Free Trade Deal Nears

EU-Canada Free Trade Deal Nears

The European Union said it plans to finalize a free trade agreement with Canada in the “coming weeks” that could boost annual two-way trade by more than $33 billion.

“It is clear that there has been some significant progress (in negotiations), but some important work needs to be done,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said after a meeting with Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast in Brussels.

“Both sides will now instruct their negotiators to narrow the gaps on the outstanding issues, aiming for a deal in the coming weeks,” De Gucht said.

De Gucht and Fast plan to meet again “very shortly” and continue discussions until an agreement is reached, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, said.

The key sticking points are over agriculture, intellectual property, public procurement and investment rules.

Bilateral trade in goods between the EU and Canada totaled 52.5 billion euros ($68 billion) in 2011.

The 27-nation EU is Canada’s second most important trading partner after the U.S., accounting for 10 percent of its total external trade.

Canada is the EU’s 12th-largest trading partner accounting for 1.6 percent of its exports.

A joint EU-Canada study in 2008 said a free trade agreement could increase two-way trade by 25.7 billion euros ($33.4 billion).

The EU plans to start negotiations with the U.S. over a comprehensive trade agreement in early 2013.