The French right has called for the TTIP negotiations to be restarted after the 2017 elections in Germany, the United States and France. EURACTIV France reports.
Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republican party has strongly criticised the French government’s U-turn on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Last week (30 August) the Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl, said France would demand the talks be stopped at the next meeting of European trade ministers in September. He was later supported by President François Hollande.
The right wing Republican party also called for the deal to be temporarily called off, saying discussions should start again “on a new foundation” after the German, American and French elections in 2017.
One aspect of this new foundation, as imagined by the Republicans, would be to take responsibility for the negotiations to away from the European Commission and hand it to the president of the Council.
Responsibility for negotiations
But this proposal is unpopular with many in Brussels, including the European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest centre-right EU party, to which the Republicans belong.
“Europe’s trade negotiations should be led by the presidency of the European Union, and not just by the Trade Commissioner,” a Republican party press release said.
Concretely, this amounts to a proposal to claw power over international trade policy back from Brussels to national governments.
“I understand that this is the position of Nicolas Sarkozy, I do not share it and neither does the EPP,” said the head of the French EPP delegation to the European Parliament Alain Lamassoure.
“The Commission leads negotiations based on the political mandate it has been given. The president of the Council is not in a position to negotiate anything. The European Treaties do not allow for it,” the MEP said.
“During the trade talks with Canada, nobody ever complained at the way the Commission carried out the negotiations,” he added.
“In view of the French and German general elections in 2017, it would be better to restart the negotiations between the European Union and the United States on a new foundation,” the Republican press release said.
The 2016 American elections will be followed by the French presidential election in April and May 2017 and the German federal elections between August and October 2017.
For the republicans, this electoral wave will also provide an opportunity to redress the balance in the negotiations.
Remarks like these have placed the French Republicans at odds with their European party. EPP Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker defended TTIP, saying the EU would push ahead with its negotiations with the United States.
Germany’s Socialist Minister for Economy Sigmar Gabriel also recently questioned the wisdom of pursuing the trade deal, and was disciplined by EPP Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In the European Parliament, the EPP has not wavered in its support for the free trade deal.
“Of course the negotiations are difficult, of course the Americans have decided not to accept all our demands. And we would happily do the same thing. Demanding a stop to the negotiations is not courageous, it is sabotage,” said Franck Proust, a French Republican MEP.