TORONTO (AP) - A European Union trade spokesman said Wednesday the EU hopes to conclude a free trade deal with Canada in the "coming days."
"Discussions are indeed continuing at the highest level between the EU and Canada towards a comprehensive free trade deal (CETA) - with the hope to conclude the negotiations in the coming days," EU Trade spokesman John Clancy told The Associated Press in an email.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said Wednesday his country will "soon" complete negotiations. Harper posted the remark on his Twitter account ahead of a speech in Parliament on Wednesday evening that sets forth the government's agenda. The prime minister's office confirmed the remarks are authentic. Harper has long said a deal was close, but an official in his office says further progress has been made.
Harper has said that a free trade deal between his country and the European Union could help the EU establish a beachhead as they embark on separate free trade talks with the U.S.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who visited Harper in Ottawa in March, agreed that a successful Canada-EU pact could have a positive influence on a future deal with the U.S. If a U.S.-EU trade deal is reached, it could be the world's largest free trade pact.
Canada's prime minister hopes to ink a deal in an attempt to diversify Canada's trade. The U.S. is Canada's largest trading partner.
Canada's finance minister has said despite Europe's struggles, Canada remains very interested because the EU is still the largest market in the world in terms of the size of its middle class.
The Canada-EU deal would make it easier for Canadian companies to invest in, and sell to, the 17-member EU with its 500 million consumers.
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