France joins calls to halt trade talks with US

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations ‘have failed’, says Germany

Activists protesting  at  international trade treaties in Berlin this month. Photograph: Maurizio Gambarini/EPA

Activists protesting at international trade treaties in Berlin this month. Photograph: Maurizio Gambarini/EPA

 

Current transatlantic trade talks should be halted and a new set started, France’s trade minister said on Tuesday, adding his voice to some calls from Germany for an end to the negotiations.

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

“There should be an absolute clear end so that we can restart them on a 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 US demands.

Mr Gabriel is the chairman of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), who share power with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives. Many Social Democrats have serious reservations about TTIP but Dr Merkel backs the talks.

Her spokesman insisted on Monday that talks should continue, while Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier – also a member of the SPD – said on Tuesday that both sides were still far away from agreeing on standards and procedures.

Discrepancies

European Commission

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.

Consumers

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 US 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. – Reuters