Canadian and European officials traded public barbs yesterday over the inability to finalize the Canada – EU Trade Agreement. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said unless Canada makes some additional steps, there will be no deal. Canadian officials responded that Europe has yet to meet Canada’s core concerns. The comments come after a ministerial meeting this month was unable to yield an agreement. De Gucht and Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast met in Brussels in November 2012, but those talks failed to solve the outstanding issues. The two ministers met again in Ottawa two weeks ago with a similar result.
While officials continue to put a brave face on the talks, the latest comments suggest mounting frustration at the unwillingness of either side to cave on key issues in order to strike a deal. The major remaining issues have been the same for months: agriculture, patent protection for pharmaceutical companies, investor access and protection, public procurement, automotive issues, and cultural protections. Indeed, these issues were identified years ago as the major areas of disagreement (copyright was initially on this list but the defeat of ACTA removed it as an issue).