France, joining Germany, urges halt to transatlantic trade talks

Published 30.08.2016 19:54
Updated 30.08.2016 19:56

As parallel to the German economy minister stressing U.S.' reluctance to agree with the EU, French trade minister expressed the declining political support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Current Transatlantic trade talks should be halted and a new set started, France's trade minister said yesterday, adding his voice to German calls for an end to the negotiations.

Matthias Fekl said he would request a halt to negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on behalf of France at next month's meeting of European Union trade ministers in Bratislava.

"There should be an absolute clear end so that we can restart them on good basis," he said on RMC Radio, adding he would suggest that course to fellow ministers.

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday that TTIP negotiations had effectively failed after Europe refused to accept some U.S. demands.

The comments put the EU's two biggest economies at odds with both the official line from the European Commission, the bloc's executive, and the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Three years of talks have failed to resolve multiple differences, including over food and environmental safety, but the USTR's spokesman told German magazine Der Spiegel the negotiations "are in fact making steady progress".

The White House has said this week it aims to reach a deal by the end of the year. "It's going to require the resolution of some pretty thorny negotiations, but the president and his team are committed to doing that," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington.

The Commission also remains upbeat.

"Although trade talks take time, the ball is rolling right now and the Commission is making steady progress in the ongoing TTIP negotiations," the executive's spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, told a news conference in Brussels on Monday.

Supporters say the TTIP could deliver more than $100 billion worth of economic gains on both sides of the Atlantic, but critics say the pact would hand too much power to big multinationals at the expense of consumers and workers.

Paris threatened to stall further negotiations as long ago as April, but there are national elections due in both France and Germany in 2017, and before the summer, experts were saying that this year -- ahead of the U.S. presidential election - may be the best opportunity to strike a deal.

That prospect looks less likely now, and Britain's June vote to leave the EU has further clouded the picture, even though the Commission has a mandate to finalise TTIP talks on behalf of all EU 28 members.

In line with these, the TTIP is not supported by many authorities in the U.S. Accordingly, in an interview in late 2015, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said that she had broken ranks with President Barack Obama and criticized the proposed TTIP agreement, saying it will not do enough to create American jobs or "advance our national security."

Also the former U.S. Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton said she was "not in favor" of the deal currently being discussed by 12 countries on the Pacific Rim, including the U.S. and Japan, but not China. In addition, Republican candidate Donald Trump had previously expressed his reservations about the TTIP, saying that it is an enormous 5,600-page deal that no one understands.

German minister of economy: US unwillingness to compromise ended TTIP

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel yesterday said the United States had effectively ended talks on a free trade deal with the European Union because Washington had not wanted to compromise with its European counterparts. The U.S. and the EU have been negotiating the TTIP for three years and both had aimed to agree a deal this year. A spokesman for the U.S. trade chief told Der Spiegel on Tuesday that talks on TTIP were progressing.

"I believe that the Americans have actively ended TTIP. I don't see any willingness to compromise with the Europeans," Gabriel told a news conference in Berlin.

He added that TTIP had no chance of being agreed before a U.S. election due in November.

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