OTTAWA - Federal Trade Minister Ed Fast says Canada and the European Union are a step closer to signing a free trade deal with the exchange of formal offers on services and investment this week in Ottawa.

Fast said in a statement that "significant progress" has been achieved on issues of market access in areas of goods, services, investment and government procurement.

An exchange of offers dealing with provincial government and European state procurement took place in July.

The offers representing the core negotiating positions of the two sides have not been made public, which opponents have attacked as undemocratic.

But Fast called the development "another milestone" along the process that is scheduled to conclude next year.

The two sides are expected the wrap up the ninth round of formal negotiations Friday, with more sessions planned.