THE CANADIAN PRESS | March 05, 2009
Canada aims for free-trade talks with Europe
OTTAWA — The federal government hopes to open formal negotiations within months toward a free-trade deal with the European Union.
International Trade Minister Stockwell Day announced the news Thursday as both sides published a list of 15 discussion topics to guide negotiations.
The federal cabinet will now prepare instructions for Canadian negotiators to take into their meetings with European counterparts.
The topics include broad themes such as customs procedures, sanitary issues, barriers to trade, government procurement, intellectual property, and sustainable development.
"This agreement puts us in a position to launch comprehensive negotiations as early as possible," Day said in a press release.
"As our second-largest trading partner, the Canada-EU relationship holds great potential. During times of economic uncertainty, it is even more important for Canadians to seek out new trade and investment opportunities abroad."
The announcement comes almost five months after a Canada-EU Quebec City summit in which the sides agreed to prepare a range of discussion topics.
Canada and the EU had $109.4 billion in two-way trade in 2007.
Canada has a trade deficit with Europe — $36.1 billion in merchandise exports and $54 billion in imports — and a trade deal would likely increase that gap.
Ottawa projects that a trade deal with Europe would see Canada’s economy grow by $12 billion.
Canadian imports from the EU are projected to go up 24.3 per cent — or about $27.5 billion — while exports would be expected to increase by 20.6 per cent, or $13.9 billion.
By way of comparison, Canada’s trade with Europe represents less than a quarter of its total trade with the United States, and is roughly triple its trade with China.