Reuters / Canada and the European Union still have plenty of work to do on a proposed free trade treaty that is supposed to be finished by the end of the year, officials from both sides say.
Canada is keen to diversify its exports away from the U.S. and wants to increase two-way trade with Europe by 20 per cent. But after more than three years of talks, several sensitive matters remain to be settled, including access for agricultural goods, opening up procurement markets, and extension of pharmaceutical patents.
“There is a small basket of issues left and as in any negotiations, they are the toughest ones to resolve,” said Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast.
The two sides are working relentlessly to wrap up their work by the end of 2012, said Maurizio Cellini, head of the economic and trade section at the EU’s delegation in Canada.
“Although we have achieved good results, to reach a truly ambitious agreement that reflects our relationship we both need to do more,” he said in a speech in Ottawa.
Cellini said the 27-member bloc was particularly keen on opening up Canada’s provincial and municipal procurement market. Critics worry this could lead to foreign domination of the market, but Fast pointed to the $2.4-billion EU procurement market.
About 75 per cent of all Canadian exports head to the U.S., with the EU taking just over 10 per cent.