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Canada, EU reach tentative free-trade deal, sources say

10/16/2013 10:59 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
Canada and the European Union have reached a tentative free-trade agreement after Canada agreed to increase imports of European cheese, sources tell CBC News.

Greater Canadian access to European cheese has been one of the main stumbling blocks to a deal, as has increased market access in Europe for Canadian beef and pork.

Industry sources confirm to CBC News that Canada has agreed to raise cheese import quotas to 37,000 tonnes from 20,000, and to increase Europe's share of that to 30,000 tonnes from 13,000.

In return, it is expected Canada has received concessions on beef and pork. It was reported the two sides reached a deal on those issues last month.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted Wednesday morning that a deal was close.

"We will soon complete negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union," he tweeted. It was one of several tweets sent out on his official Twitter feed Wednesday, quoting from a speech to his Conservative caucus on the morning of the throne speech.

European Commission trade spokesman John Clancy told CBC News that a deal has not been finalized.

"Discussions do indeed continue with the aim of reaching an agreement as soon as possible" Clancy told CBC. "I have no further information at this time." 

The deal still needs sign-off from the EU trade commissioner and Harper, and the provinces' approval. Sources tell CBC News the provinces were notified of the tentative deal on Monday.

Quebec has said it won't approve a deal that threatens its dairy industry, but the Conservative government has said all along it has no plans to dismantle Canada's system of supply management.

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