European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will visit Ottawa next week in a bid to seal an accord that would expand commerce with Canada and sharpen the focus on planned EU talks with the U.S.
De Gucht will meet his Canadian counterpart, Ed Fast, during a Feb. 6-7 trip meant to wrap up almost four years of negotiations on a free-trade agreement, the European Commission said. EU-Canada trade in goods was worth 52.4 billion euros ($70.5 billion) in 2011, while services commerce totaled 22.3 billion euros in 2010, according to the latest data from the commission.
A negotiated deal, which would need the approval of EU national governments and the European Parliament, may end 97 percent of tariffs on EU-Canada goods trade at the entry into force and 99 percent after seven years. The sticking points have included Canadian access to the EU’s beef and pork markets and European access to Canada’s dairy market as well as to Canadian public-procurement contracts at the sub-federal level.
The goal of De Gucht’s visit to Ottawa next week is to reach “closure” in the talks on an EU-Canada commerce agreement, John Clancy, trade spokesman of the Brussels-based commission, the 27-nation bloc’s executive, said in an e-mail statement today.
The EU is sidestepping stalled World Trade Organization efforts to open markets by seeking commerce deals with individual countries or groups of nations. The EU struck a trade accord with South Korea that took effect in 2011, agreed in late November to start talks with Japan and last month approved an agreement with Colombia and Peru and reached a draft deal with Singapore.
Also on the EU’s agenda is a possible free-trade agreement with the U.S., with both sides moving toward the start of negotiations. The EU and the U.S. have the largest bilateral commercial relationship in the world, with their trade in goods in 2011 worth almost 445 billion euros and in services in 2010 valued at nearly 258 billion euros, according to the commission.
On his way to Ottawa, De Gucht plans to stop in Washington on Feb. 5 in an effort to advance preparations for trade talks with the U.S., said Clancy.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at email@example.com