Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast stated last month that a comprehensive trade deal with the European Union could be completed by the end of 2012. The negotiations began in 2009, and the parties completed nine negotiating rounds between 2009 and 2011. During 2012, the parties have been meeting in smaller working groups. Matthias Brinkmann, head of the European Union Delegation to Canada, emphasized in recent comments that patent protection for pharmaceuticals is one of several difficult issues that still needs to be resolved, and acknowledged the possibility that the negotiations will not be completed until early 2013. Press reports indicate that agricultural market access and opening of government procurement markets are other major unresolved issues in the negotiations. The Canadian Government has estimated that successful implementation of this agreement would result in a 20 percent increase in bilateral trade and C$12 billion in annual economic benefits to the Canadian economy.