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Ag issues remain unresolved in Europe trade talks

Canada and Europe remain on course to complete a free trade deal before the end of the year, but agriculture issues have yet to be dealt with, says Canada’s chief negotiator.

The EU wants greater access to the Canadian cheese market while “we’ve expressed a lot of interest in their beef market and in their pork market in particular, among others,” Steve Verheul told the Commons agriculture committee.

“No formal offers have been put on the table in these areas, but I think from our perspective we have to look at this across the balance of the entire agreement,” he said.

The top priority for Europe is better access to government procurement followed by intellectual property protection, he said.

Negotiations have been ongoing for more than three years but steady progress is being made, he said. Since last fall, the two sides have focused on settling the most contentious issues.

“We have been making some good forward progress on rules of origin, including on agricultural products, fish and industrial products,” he said. “Both sides are making compromises to close the gaps between us, but there is no substitute to doing this product by product, and that takes time.”

There will be challenges when the agriculture negotiations get serious “as there are sensitivities on both sides,” he added.

“We have made limited progress on EU demands on geographical indications for agricultural products,” he said.

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