Sat, Sep 24, 2016 - Page 10 News List

Austria, France to propose restarting EU-US trade talks

Reuters, BERLIN

Austria and France yesterday were to propose ending the current round of trade talks between the US and the EU, and starting fresh talks under a new name, Austrian Minister of Economy Reinhold Mitterlehner said.

“The free-trade talks with the USA should begin again under a new title and with different substantive headings,” including greater transparency, Mitterlehner told German newspaper Die Welt.

He said he and French Minister for Foreign Trade Minister Matthias Fekl would push for a new start to the WTO’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) at a meeting of EU trade ministers in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava.

He said the talks should resume after the US presidential election on Nov. 8.

Washington and Brussels are officially committed to sealing the free-trade deal before US President Barack Obama leaves office in January, but their chances of doing so are being eroded by approaching elections on both sides of the Atlantic and Britain’s vote in June to leave the EU.

Fekl last month said he would request a halt to TTIP talks at the ministerial meeting after German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energ Sigmar Gabriel declared that they were “de facto dead.”

The French minister told the Handeslblatt newspaper that the US had demanded too much and not compromised enough.

“A crazy machine is moving here, the negotiations are a failure, nobody believes that they will come to a successful conclusion,” he was quoted as saying.

French business lobbies on Thursday called for the TTIP talks to be extended.

Mitterlehner said officials needed to ensure that investment protections modeled on the European system were included in the future free-trade pact, and that it would not have a negative impact on standards, pensions or the healthcare system.

“TTIP has become a metaphor for the exuberant dealings of big corporations. That has a negative connotation. We hope for a good deal, but it has to be approached differently,” he told Die Welt.

Mitterlehner said he saw growing support for a new start.

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