A man prepares a Trojan Horse outside the front gates of Parliament Hill before the start of a protest against the Canada-European Union free trade negotiations, in Ottawa October 17, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Some 25 Canadian and European civil society groups rolled a Trojan horse up to the gates of Canada's parliament Monday to protest a proposed Canada-EU trade pact, as a new round of negotiations kicked off.

“Just like the Trojan horse behind me, this trade deal carries huge threats,” warned Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, flanked by the 14-foot high wooden horse.

Canadians and Europeans have been kept in the dark during the negotiations about “what's being given away,” she said, decrying a lack of public disclosure of the negotiations now entering their ninth round.

Protest organizers Canadian Pierre-Yves Serinet and Frenchman Frederic Viale echoed her concerns and called for transparency in the negotiations as well as a referendum on the accord before it is signed and ratified.

The 27-nation EU is Canada's second-largest trade partner after the United States, and also is the number-two foreign investor in the resource-rich North American country.

Bilateral exports and imports total about 100 billion Canadian dollars (US$98.5 billion) annually, according to official data.

A deal with the EU would be Canada's second-largest free-trade pact, after the North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Mexico, and the first to include access to municipal procurements.

According to a 2008 Canada-EU joint economic study, liberalization of trade and services, including the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers, would provide a $25-billion (18-billion euro) boost to their economies.

However, environmentalists, farmers, auto workers and others have rallied against it.

Ottawa hopes to complete negotiations by 2012. - Sapa-AFP