Some news reports have suggested Premier Pauline Marois may not be as much of a cheerleader on a deal with the European Union as her predecessor, although there has been no announcement rejecting the talks.
The Conservatives have indicated they want to close a Canada-European Union free-trade pact by year's end, saying it could boost the economy by $12 billion annually.
Fast said that he intends to continue to be "collaborative" in his approach to negotiations, noting that the provinces have been present at the table whenever issues on provincial jurisdiction were discussed.
While he would not comment directly on how last month's election of a separatist, left-of-centre government in Quebec might impact the talks, he said he intends to take up the issue with his counterpart, likely Jean-Francois Lisee, the minister of international relations.
"I fully expect that I'll very soon be meeting with my counterpart in Quebec to discuss many different issues of interest to the federal and Quebec governments," he said.
Fast said at a news conference on Friday that he still believes a trade deal can be concluded by the end of the year, but was making no promises.
Negotiators from Europe were in Ottawa throughout the week, and one final two-week session is scheduled for mid-October in Brussels.
Some analysts have said that with so many key issues apparently still unresolved — including intellectual property for pharmaceutical development, provincial procurement, banking services and supply management in dairy and poultry — the talks may well extend into 2013.
"I've made it very clear over the last year-and-a-half that we are aiming to conclude negotiations in 2012," Fast said.
"We're now down to the final few issues left to be negotiated. These are intense discussions but we are making significant progress."
The minister gave few details on the issues that separate the two parties, although on the issue of patent protection for pharmaceuticals, he said he was looking for a balanced result.
Canada's pharmaceutical research industry supports increasing protection on data used in patenting new medicines to the European standard of 10 years, from Canada's eight. Critics warn the move would delay the production of low-cost generic replacements and lead to higher overall drug prices in Canada.
"We are looking for a balanced outcome, where we provide strong protection for those who innovate within our economy, but at the same time we also ensure that Canadians will continue to have a reliable source of affordable drugs," Fast said.
The minister gave the update while announcing alongside Jordanian Foreign minister Nasser Judeh that the previously-negotiated free trade deal with the small Middle East country will go into force on Oct. 1.
The sum of two-way trade between the two countries totalled $89 million in 2011 — a fraction of the $12 billion annual boost Ottawa expects from a comprehensive deal with Europe.Suggest a correction