Prime Minster Stephen Harper has indicated that trade talks with the European Union have bogged down and it appears one of the main issues is demands by France for protection of cultural industries.
There are difficulties, Mr. Harper told reporters in Paris after meeting French President François Hollande. Mr. Harper said that while France has been a supporter of a trade deal, “there are obviously always in negotiations some areas that are more difficult than others. Both of our countries look to have considerable gains from an eventual agreement and we will continue to work with that objective in mind.”
Mr. Harper was not specific about the major issues in the discussions, saying he did not want to negotiate in public. He also said Canada would not put a deadline on the talks and would only sign a deal that was in the best interests of Canadians.
However Mr. Hollande made it clear to reporters that France is pushing for an exemption of cultural industries and is also concerned about agriculture. He told reporters that France wants the negotiations to be successful, but the agreement must respect principles that have been important to France for a long time and that includes an excluding audiovisual industries and culture.
“I have good hope that these negotiations can conclude within the next months,” he said. He noted that the EU is doing the negotiating, but that France is attentive and wants to get a good accord.
Mr. Hollande’s time frame for the deal to conclude is a much longer than Canadian officials had indicated. They had been suggesting a deal could be signed while Mr. Harper was on this brief European tour ahead of next week’s G8 meeting in Northern Ireland.
During Mr. Harper’s first stop in London on Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested a deal was “close.” The Prime Minister’s Office played down those expectations, but still left the door open to the possibility of a deal being struck before the G8. That appears doubtful.
Asked about the situation in Syria, Mr. Harper said he agrees with the United States, France and others that the regime has used chemical weapons. While Canada has not been in favour of arming the rebels, but Mr. Harper said on Friday that Canada will work with its allies on a response.
“We are obviously working very closely with our allies. We share broadly speaking an analysis of the objectives, I think our concerns about the risks on both sides are shared by our allies and we’ll work very closely with them going forward.”