Harper to host Merkel over informal dinner at PM's retreat tonight

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OTTAWA - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet over dinner tonight at Harper's Harrington Lake retreat in Gatineau, Que.

The two will have a rare, uninterrupted session — with no aides and no agenda — that's set for two hours, but could last longer.

There will be a more formal meeting held on Thursday morning in Harper's Parliament Hill office.

Among other things, Harper will be keen for an update on the European economic situation.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss Canada's bid for a free-trade pact with the European Union.

But while Germany wants the talks to succeed, officials say Merkel will avoid any enthusiastic public statements of support as the negotiations enter the crucial homestretch.

Canada estimates a free trade pact with the 27-country trading bloc could boost the economy by $12 billion annually.

Harper wants a deal struck by the end of the year and has said recently that the EU trade talks were progressing well.

Organizations: European Union

Geographic location: Canada, OTTAWA, Harrington Lake Gatineau, Que Parliament Hill Germany

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