‘Crunch time’ for free trade talks with Europe, with many issues unresolved

HALIFAX – The European Union’s ambassador to Canada says even though it’s “crunch time” for free trade talks with Europe, the most contentious issues have yet to be resolved.

Matthias Brinkmann, head of the European Union Delegation to Canada, says the talks could drag into next year, blowing a year-end deadline that Ottawa had planned for.

Brinkmann — in Halifax to meet with Premier Darrell Dexter and other officials — says the talks have yet to tackle several thorny issues, including patent protection for pharmaceuticals.

He says negotiators in Brussels are still grappling with procurement rules for public projects, market access for agricultural products, rules of origin and investment protection.

The Conservative government has indicated it wants to close a Canada-European Union free-trade pact by year’s end, saying it could boost the economy by $12 billion annually.

Critics say the talks could lead to higher costs for prescription drugs, increased privatization of public services and place too many limits on the ability of governments to control large corporations.

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