Canadian prime minister says possible free trade deal with EU could help Europeans with the US

Canada's prime minister says a free trade deal between his country and the European Union could help the EU establish a beachhead as they embark on separate free trade talks with the U.S.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday considerable progress has been made toward such a deal, but important issues still need to be resolved.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is visiting Harper in Ottawa, agrees that a successful Canada-EU pact could have a positive influence on a future deal with the U.S.

Ayrault says the major obstacles to the Canada-EU deal are in the agricultural and information technology sectors.

Canada will sign a deal only if it is in the best interests of the Canadian economy, Harper said.