US Secretary of State John Kerry said today (18 July) that concluding the TTIP agreement before the end of President Barack Obama’s term in office remains his country’s priority, and that he was going to tour EU countries to make this happen.
Without mentioning France or Germany, Kerry said that he was aware of “comments from the region” that talks to conclude the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) should stop.
It will be “impossible” for the European Union and the United States to conclude negotiations on a trade deal by the end of 2016, France’s junior minister for trade and commerce said today (5 July).
Germans are growing increasingly wary of a vast EU-US trade pact currently under negotiation, an opinion poll showed on 5 May, as Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped for a deal by December.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has recently said the deal – which has faced mounting criticism in Europe, especially in France and Germany – would serve as “a breeding ground for populism” and be bad for Europe’s economy.
Tens of thousands of Germans have taken to the streets in protest against the pact, including during US President Barack Obama’s Germany visit last April.
US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a joint pitch Sunday (22 April) for more transatlantic trade in the face of mounting opposition, vowing to complete a vast US-EU pact that could spur much-needed economic growth.
Both Washington and the Commission want the mega-deal completed this year before Obama leaves office, but the governments of some EU member states are reluctant to fuel populists ahead of crucial elections.
“We gracefully disagree’
“I know there have been a number of comments […] from certain people in the region , suggesting that TTIP will not or cannot proceed forward. We frankly, gracefully I hope, and respectfully, disagree. Because we believe there has been some mythology that has been attached to it, and it is our job to adequately inform people about the facts of TTIP… actually work for the people of Europe”, Kerry said.
The US Secretary of State said he intended be to back in Europe in the next months, “give several speeches in various spaces and lay out the facts” and “help people to understand exactly what the positive side of TTIP is”, for their countries to be able to sell their goods and to protect workers’ rights at the same time.
As people learn the facts, this will give the authorities power to move forward with TIIP, he added.
With Brexit, TTIP more important
TTIP has a very significant ability “to act as a counter” to whatever negatives “may or may not attach themselves” to a future deal between the UK and Europe, Kerry also said.
“It’s our job to make sure that we adequately inform people about the facts of how TTIP will actually work for the people of Europe,” Kerry said.
“It will protect jobs, it will protect their regulatory rights, protect their abilities with respect to labour and the environment,” he said.
Kerry, who had spent the previous day in Luxembourg, where he visited a cemetery where 5,000 US military are buried, including General George Patton, conveyed the message that this was an illustration why the transatlantic relationship was so important.
He said that the Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes counter-offensive (16 December 1944- 25 January 1945), was the largest in terms of casualties during World War Two. He mentioned a figure of 87,000 US casualties.
The Battle if the Bulge is certainly not the most deadly during World War 2. Almost half a million Russians were killed during the Battle of Stalingrad (whilst Germany and its allies suffered even more losses).
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who was attending the same press point with Kerry, made no mention of TTIP while she spoke.