Though the office of the U.S Trade Representative on Monday said efforts to seal a trade deal between the U.S. and the European Union were still "making steady progress," the attempt to put an optimistic spin on the struggling negotiations was undermined once again on Tuesday as France's financial minister called for the outright suspension of talks.
Describing the ongoing negotiations with the U.S. over the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as producing "nothing or just crumbs," French Junior Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said on Tuesday there is "no more political support in France" for the deal at this point.
"Another day, another death knell for TTIP, the toxic trade deal." —Global Justice Now"France calls for an end to these negotiations," Fekl said during an interview on RMC radio in France. He indicated there is no longer any hope that the countries involved could secure an agreement by year's end. "France would rather see things as they are and not harbor the illusion that an agreement will be struck before the end of the U.S. president's term in office."
While backers of the corporate-friendly deal, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have vowed to push ahead, its critics see the wave of public declarations by top ministers as proof their campaigning against the deal is paying off.
The stance by France comes just days after Germany's top finance minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said the efforts to forge an agreement on TTIP had essentially come to a halt. "The talks with the US have de facto failed because we Europeans of course must not succumb to American demands," Gabriel said on Sunday. "Nothing is moving forward."
According to Reuters:
Paris threatened to stall further negotiations as long ago as April. But with national elections due in both France and Germany in 2017, experts were saying before the summer that this year—before the end of President Barack Obama's mandate in January—may be the best opportunity to strike a deal.
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President Francois Hollande on Tuesday appeared to endorse Fekl's position, telling ambassadors that he could not back a deal by that deadline.
"The negotiations are bogged down, positions have not been respected, it's clearly unbalanced," he said.
Though Gabriel hails from Germany's left-leaning Social Democrat Party, the TTIP continues to receive backing from conservative members of parliament as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel, who reaffirmed Monday her support for the continuation of talks.
Following Gabriel's comments over the weekend, a statement from the office of U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Monday downplayed the potential breakdown of talks by telling Der Spiegel, "Negotiations are in fact making steady progress."
But Gabriel reiterated his opposition to the deal again Tuesday as he put the blame on the U.S. delegation's failure to move on key changes to the agreement. "I think the Americans actively ended TTIP because they weren't prepared to make compromises with Europeans," Gabriel told a news conference in Berlin.
As social justice organizations have blasted the TTIP since its inception, the collapsing talks come as a welcome development.