No EU-US trade deal before Obama leaves office: Hollande
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoFrance said on Aug. 30 it wanted to halt thorny EU-U.S. trade talks as French President Francois Hollande said there would be no deal at least until after U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office in January.
Hollande, in a speech to France’s diplomatic corps, chose his words more carefully but said it would be an “illusion” to say a deal was close.
“The current discussions on the treaty between Europe and the United States will not lead to an agreement by the end of the year,” he said.
“France would rather see things as they are and not harbor the illusion that an agreement will be struck before the end of the U.S. president’s term in office.”
Junior French trade minister Matthias Fekl said there was “no more political support in France” for the talks because U.S. negotiators were offering “nothing or just crumbs.”
“France calls for an end to these negotiations,” Fekl told RMC radio.
The EU Commission and U.S. negotiators began work on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in 2013, aiming to create the world’s largest free-trade area before Obama ends his term.
But the talks have become bogged down amid widespread suspicion in the 28-nation EU that a deal would undercut the bloc’s standards in key areas such as health and welfare.
‘Imbalance in talks in favor of US’
Fekl said Paris sees an imbalance in the negotiations in favor of the U.S. side.
“The Americans give nothing or just crumbs... That is not how negotiations are done between allies,” he said.
“We need a clear and definitive halt to these negotiations in order to restart on a good foundation.”
France will make its case for the talks to be halted at a meeting of foreign trade ministers in Bratislava in September, Fekl added.
He did not say when or under what conditions the talks could restart.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls had earlier said it would be “impossible” for the two sides to conclude negotiations on a trade deal by the end of 2016.
And Germany’s vice chancellor and economy minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Aug. 28 the negotiations were effectively dead in the water.
“The talks with the U.S. have de facto failed because we Europeans of course must not succumb to American demands... nothing is moving forward”, Gabriel said.
But the European Commission on Aug. 29 rejected the German claims and insisted the talks remained on track.
“The ball is rolling right now. The Commission is making steady progress,” Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.
“Talks are now indeed entering a crucial stage but... provided the conditions are right, the Commission stands ready to close this deal by the end of the year,” he told a press briefing.