Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada giving ground in Europe trade deal: sources

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PARIS -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper and French President Franßois Hollande are acknowledging the "difficult" nature of free-trade talks between Canada and the European Union.

The two leaders were asked about the long-running negotiations at a news conference Friday in Paris.

"There are obviously, always in negotiations, some areas that are more difficult than others," Harper said.

"But both of our countries look to considerable gains from an eventual agreement and we will continue to work with that objective in mind."

"In a negotiation, it is well understood that there are some hurdles at some points, that there are some difficulties," Hollande added in French.

Sources close to the talks told The Canadian Press this week the two sides have moved closer during the most recent round of negotiations. Canada did most of the moving, they said, in agreeing to allow more European access for bidding in Canada's hydroelectric sector and reducing foreign-investment restrictions.

Still, Ireland and France have been reluctant to reciprocate on Canadian demands for greater quotas on beef exports.

NDP international trade critic Don Davies said European intransigence is understandable given how "desperate" the Harper government has appeared to cement its first deal with a major economy. The biggest mistake, he said, is publicly elevating trade to one of the top two political and economic objectives.

The Conservatives could also use a success story to take attention way from a series of expense-claim scandals that have dominated headlines for weeks, resulting in the resignation of Harper's chief of staff, Nigel Wright.

"There are five or six important issues outstanding and the Europeans are holding all the trump cards," Davies said.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 $sourceSection0

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