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French Official Predicts US-EU Trade Deal Will Stall


Juergen Knirsch (L-R), Volker Gassner and Stefan Krug of the environmental campaign group Greenpeace address a news conference as they present a copy of the leaked TTIP negotiations in Berlin, Germany, May 2, 2016.

A top French trade official says negotiations between the United States and the European Union on a massive trade deal are likely to grind to a halt over the United States' reluctance to make concessions.

Matthias Fekl told reporters Tuesday that the United States' positions so far indicate that failure is the most likely outcome for the talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

On Monday the activist group Greenpeace leaked classified documents Monday from the massive trade deal being negotiated by the United States with the European Union, claiming they show corporate interests would be given preference over environmental and consumer safety concerns.

Greenpeace said it published 248 pages of documents online to "shine a light" on the talks that could create the world's largest bilateral trade and investment pact between the world's largest individual economy, the United States, and one that is collectively bigger, the 28-nation European Union.

Protecting natural resources

The activist group, releasing the documents in Berlin, said they show the United States is trying to weaken standard trade agreement provisions aimed at protecting human, animal and plant health and "exhaustible natural resources." Greenpeace also said the United States is pushing for weaker product regulation and to give corporate lobbyists more influence in decision-making.

"This treaty is threatening to have far-reaching implications for the environment and the lives of more than 800 million citizens in the European Union and United States," Greenpeace said. It said the deal, officially called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, "would put corporations at the center of policy making, to the detriment of the environment and public health. We have known that the EU position was bad; now we see that the U.S. position is even worse. A compromise between the two would be unacceptable."

EU reaction

The United States did not immediately react to the release of the documents, but EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said "many of today's alarmist headlines are a storm in a teacup."

She said the details in the leaked documents "reflect each side's negotiating position, nothing else. And it shouldn't come as a surprise there are areas in which the European Union and the United States have different views."

Malmstrom added, "It begs to be said, again and again: No EU trade agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment."

Both Washington and Brussels want to complete the pact before U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office next January. A week ago, when Obama met in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel, they both made a plea for completion of the deal.

Opposition to deal

But opposition to an accord has emerged on both sides of the Atlantic. U.S. presidential candidates, both Republican and Democratic contenders, have voiced fears that new trade deals with Europe and Pacific Rim countries would hurt U.S. workers.

EU chief negotiator with the United States, Ignacio Garcia Bercero, said sharp divisions remain with the United States in trying to reach a deal.

"There is a lot, a lot that needs to be done before this negotiation is ripe for conclusion," Garcia Bercero said.