EU looks be­yond Obama for free trade agree­ment

The Myanmar Times - - International Business -

A LAST-GASP push to seal a land­mark free trade deal between the Euro­pean Union and the United States be­fore the end of Barack Obama’s pres­i­dency has failed, EU min­is­ters agree.

“It is not re­al­is­tic to reach the fi­nal agree­ment by the end of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion,” said Peter Ziga, the trade min­is­ter of Slo­vakia which cur­rently holds the EU’s six­month ro­tat­ing pres­i­dency.

The de­ci­sion puts the fate of the ac­cord on the US side in the hands of Hil­lary Clin­ton or Don­ald Trump, who are both run­ning their pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns on an­ti­trade deal plat­forms.

The highly am­bi­tious Transat­lantic Trade and In­vest­ment Part­ner­ship (TTIP) would cre­ate the world’s big­gest mar­ket of 850 mil­lion con­sumers stretch­ing from Hawaii to Lithua­nia.

But with talks drag­ging on since 2013, op­po­si­tion has grown, most dan­ger­ously in key mem­ber states France and Ger­many amid fears that TTIP will un­der­mine Euro­pean stan­dards on health and the en­vi­ron­ment.

EU Trade Com­mis­sioner Ce­cilia Malm­stroem, who leads the talks with the US, said it takes five or six months for a new US ad­min­is­tra­tion to be fully in place and that af­fec­tively puts the talks on hold.

“When we can restart is a bit too early to spec­u­late un­til we know what the ad­min­is­tra­tion would look like,” she said af­ter EU trade min­is­ters met in the Slo­vak cap­i­tal.

The min­is­ters met hop­ing to patch up deep dif­fer­ences af­ter tens of thou­sands of de­mon­stra­tors thronged Euro­pean cities in re­cent days de­mand­ing the EU walk away from the deal.

“From our point of view, the [TTIP] talks are ef­fec­tively sus­pended be­cause mean­ing­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions are no longer tak­ing place,” said Reinhold Mit­ter­lehner, the econ­omy min­is­ter from Aus­tria where op­po­si­tion to the deal is fierce.

Crit­ics com­plain that the US side has failed to offer any se­ri­ous pro­pos­als, es­pe­cially on sen­si­tive is­sues such as pro­tect­ing ge­o­graph­i­cal la­belling for renowned farm products such as Cham­pagne or Ro­que­fort cheese.

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