Spotlight: EU-U.S. trade deal talks face headwinds in Europe
2016-09-01 08:44:00

BRUSSELS, Aug. 31 -- As Brussels and Washington are struggling to conclude a landmark bilateral trade talks by the end of this year, recent intensified critique from European politicians, along with year-long protests, cast doubt and uncertainty over the deal's future.

Matthias Fekl, France's minister for foreign trade, tweeted on Tuesday morning that his government demanded a halt of negotiations on the deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

French President Francois Hollande later the day told French ambassadors that the deal was "clearly unbalanced" and "a positive conclusion" over the deal was unlikely to be clinched by the end of this year.

France is not alone to voice doubt and concerns. On Sunday, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said TTIP had "de facto failed" in an interview with German ZDF television which later drew clarification from Gereman government.

It is not surprising that many European politicians expressed disappointment and pessimism over a deal about which three-year negotiations have failed to generate fruitful outcome and, as Gabriel said, had not lead to any agreement on the 27 chapters opened.

Brussels and Washington are still at odds over several critical issues at current stage although both sides are committed to concluding the deal by the end of this year before U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office in January.

Among Europe's major concerns is that the deal would allow multinationals to sue a European government when there is disputes. Trade unions as well think that the deal would harm the continent in fields such as agriculture, medicine and culture.

A wave of protests has taken place across Europe since the beginning of the talks in 2013. In Germany, critics have called for a nation-wide demonstration on Sept. 17.

With Britons voting to leave the European Union (EU), the cloud of uncertainty hanging over TTIP negotiations have become even thicker. Many worry that without Britain, a very important free trade supporter, the ongoing talks would be more difficult. The complicated separation process between Britain and the rest of the EU will cost much political capital thus delay the free trade talks.

However, the European Commission said Monday the ongoing TTIP negotiations are making "steady progress" and the "the ball is rolling" right now.

"Talks are now indeed entering crucial stage as we have proposals for almost all chapters on the table and a good sense of the outline of the future agreement," Chief Spokesperson of the Commission Margaritis Schinas told a news conference.

TTIP comprises of three main blocks, market access for EU and U.S. companies, cooperation on regulatory issues and global rules of trade such as sustainable development or competition policy.

Since July 2013, when the EU and the United States started negotiations on the free trade deal, 14 rounds of talks have been held. Both sides have been seeking to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year. Editor:Angela