Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada-EU Free-Trade Talks Have Been 'Difficult,' Harper and Hollande Say

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada-EU Free-Trade Talks Have Been 'Difficult,' Harper and Hollande Say

Article excerpt

Trade talks 'difficult': Harper, Hollande

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PARIS - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and French President Francois 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 joint 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.

"We know them in a number of fields. What matters most is to have the willingness to conclude and to overcome what might be difficult at some point in order to (conclude talks)."

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, agreeing to allow more European access for bidding in Canada's hydro-electric sector and reducing foreign investment restrictions.

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

NDP critic Don Davies says 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 says, 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.

"I was a union lawyer for 16 years and the No. …

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