French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault expressed hope that Canada and the European Union would reach a trade deal soon but he indicated that several key issues remain unresolved.
“There remains a final phase that we must overcome,” Mr. Ayrault told reporters Thursday after meeting Stephen Harper in Ottawa. Canada and the EU have been negotiating a trade agreement since 2009 with the goal of having it in place by the end of 2012. But negotiations have stalled and Mr. Ayrault indicated that the major stumbling blocks are trade in agricultural goods – in particular beef, poultry and pork products – as well as patent protection and cultural diversity.
The EU is believed to be seeking better protection for pharmaceutical patents, access to Canada’s supply-managed dairy system and the ability to sell to provincial Crown corporations. Canada wants lower EU duties on Canadian-made cars and better access for beef and pork exports. Last month, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht threatened to scrap the talks unless Canada offered more.
Canada had hoped to conclude a deal with the EU before the union begins negotiations with the United States. It’s not clear now if that will happen, meaning Canada could get left behind as the EU shifts gears toward the United States. Canadian officials have estimated that a trade deal with the EU would boost two-way trade by 20 per cent and create 80,000 new jobs.