By Canadian Press
EU to conclude free trade deal with Canada soonGeneral Canada Harper government
CETA pact with world’s largest middle class market intended to diversify Canadian trade.
TORONTO — A European Union trade spokesman said Wednesday the EU hopes to conclude a free trade deal with Canada in the “coming days.”
“Discussions are indeed continuing at the highest level between the EU and Canada towards a comprehensive free trade deal (CETA) — with the hope to conclude the negotiations in the coming days,” EU Trade spokesman John Clancy told The Associated Press in an email.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said Wednesday his country will “soon” complete negotiations. Harper posted the remark on his Twitter account ahead of a speech in Parliament on Wednesday evening that sets forth the government’s agenda. Harper has long said a deal was close, but an official in his office says further progress has been made.
Harper has said that a free trade deal between his country and the European Union could help the EU establish a beachhead as they embark on separate free trade talks with the U.S.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who visited Harper in Ottawa in March, agreed that a successful Canada-EU pact could have a positive influence on a future deal with the U.S. If a U.S.-EU trade deal is reached, it could be the world’s largest free trade pact.
Harper hopes to ink a deal in an attempt to diversify Canada’s trade. The U.S. is Canada’s largest trading partner. Canada’s finance minister has said despite Europe’s struggles, Canada remains very interested because the EU is still the largest market in the world in terms of the size of its middle class. The Canada-EU deal would make it easier for Canadian companies to invest in, and sell to, the 17-member EU with its 500 million consumers.
In 2012, Canada was the EU’s 12th most important trading partner, accounting for 1.8 per cent of the EU’s external trade. The EU was Canada’s second biggest partner with about 9.5 per cent of external trade.
The value of the bilateral trade in goods between the EU and Canada was $84 billion in 2012, according to the EU. The EU says machinery, transport equipment and chemicals dominate the EU’s exports to Canada, and are an important part of EU goods from Canada.
The trade agreement, on which talks were first launched in 2009, seeks to lower or erase tariffs and facilitate mutual market access for trade in goods, services and investment. It aims at making it easier for companies to bid for government contracts in the other economy and strengthens mutual recognition of intellectual property rights. In addition, the negotiations seek to address the so-called non-tariff barriers arising from differences in regulation across many sectors, which hamper trade.
The trade negotiations with the U.S., in turn, are still in an early stage and suffered a minor setback last week when the U.S. side had to cancel a long-planned negotiation round in Brussels because of the government shutdown. About 100 officials were set to travel to Belgium for the talks. The next round is likely to take place next month.
Associated Press reporter Juergen Baetz in Brussels contributed to this report.
© 2013 The Canadian Press