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French push on for EU-Canada free trade

PARIS, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- A move is afoot in Paris by a former French prime minister to have the European Union and Canada establish a free trade deal, Canwest News Service reported.

Edouard Balladur, who was premier under the late Socialist president Francois Mitterrand in the mid 1990s, told Le Devoir newspaper he envisioned such an arrangement as a "good way to start" to repairing relations with the United States over the war in Iraq, the report said.

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"Canada is closer to Europe than the United States in many areas, like foreign policy," Balladur told the newspaper. "History is starting to be made without the West, and perhaps one day it will be made against it."

Canwest said Balladur is considered a confident of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is next in line to assume the six-month rotating EU presidency.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Jean Charest have endorsed the idea of free trade, although former Canadian trade negotiator Michael Hart called the idea "silly," Canwest said.

Hart said in an interview there are already few trade barriers between the two sides and Canada represents only a tiny portion of trade with Europe.

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