(MENAFN - AFP) Canada and EU ministers will hold talks in Brussels next week in an effort to "resolve at the political level" roadblocks to a free trade pact, said officials Thursday.
Canada-EU free trade negotiations, now in their third year, were expected to wrap up by year's end.
Negotiators are in both Brussels and Ottawa this week hammering out the final details of the proposed Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
But European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said recently that ministerial talks between himself and Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast were needed to try to "close the deal."
"There are a number of issues I believe that you can only resolve at the political level," De Gucht said.
Fast's spokesman Rudy Husny told AFP those talks, tentatively scheduled for November 22, "will undoubtedly be followed by further discussions at all levels."
A deal with the 27-nation European Union would be Canada's second-largest free trade pact after the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Mexico, and the first to include access to municipal procurements.
But there are stumbling blocks in the talks involving intellectual property, public procurement and aspects of the services sector.
Canada's provinces and municipalities have expressed concerns about losing their ability to extend preferences to local suppliers, while others fear higher drug costs if patent protections keep out cheaper generics longer.
Environmentalists, farmers and auto workers have also rallied against a trade accord with the EU, the largest integrated economy in the world with more than 500 million consumers.