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No EU-US trade deal during Obama presidency, Francois Hollande says

Prospects for the proposed EU-US trade deal have been cast into further doubt after French president Francois Hollande said an agreement would not be forged before Barack Obama leaves office in January, and a trade minister called for an end to talks.

"France prefers to look things in the face," Mr Hollande said in a diplomatic speech.

"These discussions cannot result in an agreement by the end of the year. The negotiations have bogged down, the positions have not been respected, the imbalance is obvious."

His comments come after Matthias Fekl, the French minister for foreign trade, tweeted on Tuesday morning that the country is calling for negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to cease.

Mr Fekl also told RMC radio that "we need a clear, clean, definitive stop" to the negotiations, adding that talks could resume if wider EU-US trade relations improved.

Accusing the US side of offering "just crumbs", Mr Fekl said France would ask the European Commission to halt the talks at a trade ministers meeting in Slovakia next month.

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel said at the weekend that the current round of talks with the US have "de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it".

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

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

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.

A Downing Street spokesman said it is "obviously in Europe's and America's benefit to get an international trade deal organised".

He added: "Any post-Brexit trade deal will be negotiated by us in terms which see the best possible result for us and our trading partner or partners."

Asked if Theresa May shares Mr Hollande's assessment on the prospects for TTIP negotiations dragging on beyond the end of the year, the spokesman said: "I wouldn't be drawn on whether TTIP will be concluded by the end of this year or the end of next year. TTIP will be concluded when it's concluded.

"If President Hollande has said that, that's his take on the situation."


From Belfast Telegraph