Fekl told the French newspaper that he believes the “total lack of transparency” in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations poses a “democratic problem”.
The Minister of State for Foreign Trade called on the United States to show “reciprocity” in the negotiations. “American members of parliament have access to a much higher number of documents than we do in Europe,” he said.
Nothing in return
“Europe has offered many compromises, in all areas, and has received no serious offers from the Americans in return. Neither for access to their public markets, nor for access to their agricultural and food markets, which remain closed,” he added.
These are highly sensitive issues for France, which is keen to protect its geographical indications in the trade negotiations.
Arbitration by private tribunals (ISDS) is another unresolved bone of contention. In this regard, “France has made far-reaching proposals which have been taken up by the European Commission,” the secretary of state said.
Opened in July 2013, the free trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union have stumbled on several issues, including transparency and dispute settlement.
France and Germany have both expressed reservations about the way in which the negotiations have been conducted on several occasions.
Faced with increasing concern over the direction of the negotiations, Matthias Fekl announced that France would be prepared to abandon the whole process if it does not receive the concessions it wants. “If nothing changes, that will show that there is no willingness to ensure a mutually beneficial negotiation process,” he explained.
“France is examining all its options, including abandoning the negotiations all together,” Matthias Fekl said. This option may strike a chord with some other member states, as the European Commission has taken responsibility for the negotiations upon itself, leaving the 28 countries on the side-lines.
Negotiations between the United States and the European Union on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership began in July 2013.
The guidelines stated that the EU should seek to include provisions on investment protection and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the proposed agreement.
>>Read our Special report: TTIP and the Arbitration Clause
If the treaty is signed, it will affect almost 40% of world GDP. The transatlantic market is already the most important in the world.
The deal could save companies millions of euros and create thousands of new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. The average European household could save €545 per year and European GDP could increase by nearly 0.5%.
Brussels and Washington want to conclude the ambitious negotiations and seal the deal by the end of 2015, but disagreements between the two parties, notably on the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, have slowed the process.