France to call for an end to EU-US free trade talks

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Talks over the hugely controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US are in danger as France pushes for an end to negotiations and a German minister says they have failed.

Paris announced on Tuesday that it would launch an appeal to the EU Commission in September aimed at ending negotiations for the TTIP free trade agreement with the United States.

France’s chief negotiator Matthias Fekl told radio station RMC that Paris was demanding a stop because TTIP had “no political support” in France. “There should be an absolute clear end so that we can restart them on good basis,” he added

Already in May, French President Francoise Hollande said he would “never accept” the deal in its current guise because of the rules it enforces on France and the rest of Europe. He mainly criticized plans to deregulate farming and culture, claiming they were too friendly to US businesses.

“We will never accept questioning essential principles for our agriculture, our culture and for the reciprocity of access to public [procurement] markets,” Hollande said.

German resistance

The announcement came just two days after German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday that he considered the talks to be unsuccessful.

“In my opinion, the negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it,” Gabriel, who is also Germany’s vice chancellor and its economic minister, told German broadcaster ZDF.

Gabriel noted that after 14 rounds of talks, the two sides have yet to agree on even one chapter of the 27 being discussed. One of the reasons given for the breakdown in negotiations was that “we Europeans did not want to subject ourselves to American demands,” he added.

EU Commission vows to push ahead

In response to Gabriel’s comments, a spokesman for the EU Commission said Monday that the bloc’s executive was determined to continue negotiations.

“Although trade talks take time, the ball is rolling right now and the Commission is making steady progress in the ongoing TTIP negotiations,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news conference.

EU trade ministers will discuss the issue in Bratislava on Sept. 22. Schinas said the Commission was still ready to finalize the deal by the end of the year, but not at the expense of “Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards, or our cultural diversity.”

The EU and US began working on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in 2013, aiming to create the world’s largest free trade area by the time President Barack Obama leaves office in January next year.

uhe/cjc (AFP, Reuters)

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