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France to call on Commission to halt EU-US free trade negotiations

France’s Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said he would call for an end to EU-US free trade talks at an informal meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers on trade in Bratislava on Sept 22 & 23, adding to opposition voiced this week by German Socialist party leader & vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.

“What France is demanding is ... a definitive halt to these negotiations”, Fekl told radio RMC on Aug 30, “There is no longer political support in France for these talks”. The move will come as a blow to the Commission as it pledges to push for a deal with the US by the year’s end, an outcome that analysts increasingly see as unlikely. Fekl suggested the US had made too few concessions, negotiations were not transparent enough & EU standards were at threat.

The trade discussions are not “worthy of the historic relationship” between Europe & the US, he said, “The Americans give nothing or mere crumbs ... this is not how we should negotiate between allies”. The talks have faced rising opposition from vocal civil society groups & activists over recent months. But the EU’s executive insists it has the unanimous support of all EU countries to conduct the negotiations, reconfirmed at the most recent European Council summit (June 28 & 29). “Although trade talks take time, the ball is rolling right now & the

Commission is making steady progress in ongoing TTIP negotiations”, the Commission’s chief spokesman told reporters. “Talks are now entering a crucial stage as we have proposals for almost all chapters on the table & a good sense of the outline of a future agreement”, he said. “The reality is that the negotiations are moving forward,” US Trade Representative Michael Froman added. The French Trade Minister’s declaration comes only two days after German vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the bilateral trade talks had “de facto failed even though nobody is really admitting it”.

 (AgraFacts No. 63-16)