'Takes Two to Tango': EU Envoy Prods Canada to Finalize Free Trade Deal

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EU prods Canada to finalize free trade deal

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OTTAWA - With negotiators poised to meet next week in Ottawa, the European Union is once again ratcheting up the pressure on Canada to conclude long-running free trade talks.

Matthias Brinkmann, the European Union ambassador to Canada, said Wednesday he's hopeful an agreement can be finalized, possibly before the summer's end.

"But, as you know, it takes two to tango, so here we are," Brinkmann said after a ceremony marking Croatia's entry into the 28-country EU.

"We were ready already in February to conclude this negotiation. It seems that more time is needed. There's nothing we can do about that."

Four months ago, hopes were high that the protracted negotiations might be coming to a close when trade and agriculture ministers met in Ottawa. However, the long-awaited agreement has so far failed to materialize.

Brinkmann made clear that the window for finalizing the deal is narrowing, noting that much of Europe shuts down for business in August.

Asked if there were any planned talks in the coming weeks, he said: "there is no meeting fixed yet ... we're on standby."

However, a spokesman for International Trade Minister Ed Fast said negotiators planned to meet in Ottawa next week, but did not provide further details.

"Canada has made robust offers in good faith that address the EU's key interests," spokesman Rudy Husny said in an email.

"Canadians expect to be provided the same by the EU. We continue to make this clear to our EU counterparts."

Brinkmann also confirmed that one significant sticking point is Canada's demand for Europe to open its market to beef exports. But he refused to say what European negotiators are offering Canada.

"We have a generous offer, which I think meets the demands by the sector concerned here in Canada," he said.

John Masswohl of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association said the European offer simply isn't enough to compensate Canadian beef farmers for the extra costs they will face to convert production to hormone and antibiotic-free beef as called for by the EU. …