EU trade ministers push for TTIP pact

Posted on September 15, 2016

Demonstrators from grassroots environmen...Demonstrators from grassroots environmental network Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) stage a protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP) in front of the the European institutions in Brussels, on February 4, 2015. US and EU negotiators began their latest round of talks on February 2 seeking to push through the world's biggest-ever free trade deal, which after nearly two years remain bogged down by public opposition. AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNANDEMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images©AFP

A dozen trade-oriented EU countries are making a final push to salvage European trade talks with the US as hope dims of a breakthrough.

Amid concern over the growing risk of a breakdown in the negotiations, the countries have urged Cecilia Malmström, EU trade commissioner, to focus attention on “remaining issues” in the talks with Washington.

    The signatories of the letter include the trade ministers of Sweden, Finland, Spain, Italy and Britain while Germany and France were notably absent.

    At high levels in the German and French governments, ministers have questioned whether the negotiation can proceed. Angela Merkel , German chancellor, supports talks on the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) but François Hollande, French president, sees little hope of a deal in the short term.

    Saying they looked forward to continued talks with Washington, the 12 ministers said they were confident that Europe’s objectives for a free-trade deal with the US could be met. “Thus we reiterate our commitment and support given to the commission in the negotiations,” they said.

    The other signatories were Portugal, Ireland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Denmark and Lithuania.

    Senior European officials acknowledge there is little likelihood of a deal before President Barack Obama leaves office next January — the deadline set by negotiators in Brussels and Washington.

    The drift away from the talks in Europe reflects deep frustration at US demands in the talks and rising anti-globalisation sentiment ahead of elections next year in France and Germany. Adding to political pressure in Europe is the fact that a new free-trade deal with Canada — cast as a forerunner to a TTIP — must still be approved by as many as 38 national and regional parliaments.

    With EU trade ministers set to take stock of the TTIP talks at a meeting next week in Bratislava, tension is escalating between both sides in the negotiation.

    In an interview on Monday with the FT, US negotiator Mike Froman questioned whether the European Commission could make difficult decisions needed to strike a deal. Mr Froman’s assessment was quickly dismissed in Brussels, where critics said compromise was required from the US.

    Ms Malmstrom and Mr Froman met on Thursday in Brussels, saying only that they had directed negotiators “to make as much progress as possible” in the next round of talks, in New York in early October.

    “We had a good meeting where we reviewed the substantial progress being made and discussed next steps for moving forward,” they said.

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