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 on Tuesday (5 July).
“I think a deal in 2016 is impossible and everyone knows it, including those who say otherwise,” said the minister, Matthias Fekl in a statement highly critical of the deal.
Fekl’s position doesn’t seem to be a big surprise. France has already said that TTIP talks are likely to grind to a halt because of Washington’s reluctance to make concessions. But the real reason seems to be that France will hold presidential elections in April-May 2017 and the incumbent president François Hollande doesn’t want this issue to be part of the campaign.
“We are waiting for so many serious offers from the United States that there is absolutely no chance of things happening before the end of the (President Barack) Obama administration.”
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said last week that all EU members were onboard with the process to create the world’s largest free trade and investment area, under the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
However, just days earlier, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls had 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.
“I can tell you frankly, there cannot be a transatlantic treaty agreement,” Valls said.
Critics in Europe are particularly fearful of the impact on agriculture and the environment.
“The Commission has made very surprising declarations these past weeks about these negotiations, which everyone knows are not going well or moving forward,” said Fekl.
Fekl said the statement was “completely out of touch with what is happening in Europe where you have concerns over the way this kind of agreement is being negotiated, with promises of growth and jobs and very few results.”