OTTAWA — The Prime Minister’s Office is playing down expectations that Canada and the European Union will sign a long-awaited, free-trade deal while Stephen Harper is in Europe next week for the G8 summit.
The prime minister’s spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, says the two sides are down to a few outstanding issues.
MacDougall says he doesn’t expect Canada will be able to sign the trade agreement next week and negotiations are expected to continue after the summit in Northern Ireland.
Canada is under pressure to conclude a deal before the European Union turns its attention to free-trade negotiations with the United States this summer.
Among the issues believed to be on the negotiating table are financial services, Canadian beef exports, country-of-origin rules for vehicles, procurement limits for provinces and municipalities and drug patent protection.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair says he’s concerned Harper will sign a bad deal out of desperation to wrap up negotiations before the Europeans shift their focus to the American talks.