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EU, Canada strike free-trade agreement
The European Union and Canada reached a free-trade agreement on Friday, after more than four years of negotiations. The deal could also serve as a basis for a much bigger agreement between the EU and the United States.
The European Union and Canada reached a multi-billion-dollar free-trade deal trade agreement on Friday, concluding more than four years of negotiations. The deal could also serve as a basis for a much larger agreement between the EU and the United States.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced the deal in Brussels, which had been stalled for months over quotas for Canadian beef and EU cheese.
“This agreement is a landmark achievement for the transatlantic market,” Barroso said. “With political will and a good dose of hard work, there is a way to reach a result that benefits people on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said.
It is the EU’s first major agreement with a member of the G8 group of the world’s main economies. Thus far, the European Union has only been able to strike smaller deals with countries like South Korea and Singapore.
Bigger than NAFTA
The accord is expected to increase bilateral trade in goods and services by a fifth to 25.7 billion euros ($35 billion) a year, according to the latest EU estimates.
“This is the biggest deal our country has ever made,” Harper said, adding that it was bigger than the North Atlantic Free-Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico.
The European Commission is negotiating trade pacts with more than 80 countries on behalf of the bloc’s 28 members following the collapse of the Doha global trade talks.
The fact that the Canada agreement took so long to conclude shows just how difficult it can be to reach an agreement on such deals.
European efforts to sign a free trade agreement with the United States faced a setback this month when a second round of negotiations was cancelled because of the US government shutdown.
The Canada agreement should provide a boost for EU trade chief Karel De Gucht, and could serve as a template for US talks as both deals seek to go far beyond tariff reduction and to reduce transatlantic barriers to business.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)