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EU-US trade deal talks have stalled, says German economy minister

Published 28/08/2016

TTIP brought out health campaigners who were against the partnership
TTIP brought out health campaigners who were against the partnership

Talks on the proposed EU-US trade deal appear to have stalled, Germany's economy minister has said.

Negotiations over the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (Ttip) have "de facto failed", said Sigmar Gabriel.

In 14 rounds of talks, the two sides have not agreed on a single common chapter out of 27 being discussed, he said.

"In my opinion the negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it," said Mr Gabriel.

He also compared the Ttip negotiations unfavourably with a free trade deal forged between the EU and Canada, which he claimed was fairer for all sides.

Mr Gabriel suggested Washington was angry about the deal that the EU struck with Canada, because it contains elements the US does not want to see in the Ttip.

"We mustn't submit to the American proposals," said Mr Gabriel, who is also the head of Germany's centre-left Social Democratic Party which is in coalition with Angela Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union.

His comments are in marked contrast to public comments by chancellor Merkel, who said last month that the proposed US-EU deal was "absolutely in Europe's interest".

At a town hall event, Mr Gabriel also reportedly warned that the EU could face difficulties if it mishandled the process of Brexit.

The UK must not be allowed to keep the nice things about EU membership without accepting the responsibilities that go with it, he said.

Mr Gabriel's comments on the apparent difficulties in Ttip negotiations could raise hopes that a US-UK trade deal could be concluded shortly after Britain breaks from Brussels.

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan tweeted: "Confirmation that US-EU trade talks 'have failed'. Roll on US-UK trade talks!"

The issue of trade with the US featured prominently in the European Union referendum campaign and was the subject of a high-profile intervention by president Barack Obama.

The US leader warned that after Brexit the UK would be at the "back of the queue" for a trade deal because the US would focus on the larger prize offered by an EU-wide agreement.

Washington's attitude appears to have softened after the vote to leave the EU, with secretary of state John Kerry indicating that preliminary talks on trade could take place although no agreement could be signed until Brexit had actually happened.

The prospect of Ttip failing could also be welcomed on the Left of British politics, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been a prominent critic of the proposed deal.

He has vowed to reject the deal as it stands and said he would veto if if he was prime minister amid concerns it could increase private sector involvement in public services such as the NHS, water down employee rights and reduce environmental protections.

Mr Hannan told the Press Association: "I'll offer a pound to a euro that there will be a US-UK free trade agreement in place long before there is a US-EU agreement - if, indeed, that happens at all.

"What's more, it'll be a properly liberal agreement, based on free competition and maximum advantage to the consumer rather than on corporatism and the protection of vested interests.

"Leaving the EU won't just allow Britain to pursue a more deregulated, more mercantile, more global future; it might revitalise free trade world wide."

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