* Canada, EU deal was supposed to be done in 2012
* Two sides apart on agricultural issues, procurement
By Joe Brock
ABUJA, Jan 28 Free trade talks between Canada
and the European Union are progressing but there is no end date
for an deal that was supposed to have been finished by the end
of 2012, Canada's Trade Minister Ed Fast said on Monday.
Canada, keen to diversify its exports away from the United
States, says a deal with the European Union would increase
two-way trade by 20 percent. The talks started in 2009.
Officials and industry sources say several sensitive matters
remain to be settled, including access for agricultural goods,
opening up procurement markets and the extension of
"I have not committed to a firm time line. We're not going
to be rushed into a deal that doesn't serve Canadians," Fast
said during a visit to Nigeria, where he was building bilateral
trade ties with Africa's biggest oil producer.
"We continue to make significant progress in addressing the
handful of remaining issues, which are the most serious and
difficult ones to overcome," he said.
Fast said he would at some point meet with EU Trade
Commissioner Karel De Gucht, likely in Ottawa, but no date had
been set for that meeting. European officials say such a meeting
is likely to take place on February 6-7.
Negotiators have struggled over investment protection,
agriculture, public procurement and intellectual property,
particularly regarding pharmaceuticals, trade experts say.
De Gucht told Reuters last week that the EU was ready to
start talking about a free trade deal with the United States.
European diplomats say this could give Canada further impetus to
wrap up its own deal with the EU quickly before the bloc turns
its attention to what would be a much richer agreement.
A free trade agreement with Canada, the EU's 12th-largest
trading partner, would be the bloc's first with a country from
the G7 group of major developed economies.
For Canada, it would be the most significant since the North
American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Mexico
in 1994 and an opportunity to diversify exports away from the
United States. The EU is its second-largest trading partner.
(Reporting by Joe Brock; editing by Ron Askew)