The French trade minister on Tuesday called for an end to trade negotiations between the European Union and the U.S., the firmest sign yet of opposition in Europe to what would be the most ambitious trade deal in decades.
Matthias Fekl said that he would ask the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, at a meeting of trade ministers late September to end negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, generally known as TTIP. The Commission leads talks with the U.S. for the EU.
“France no longer politically supports these negotiations,” Mr. Fekl said on French radio. “The Americans are giving us nothing,” he added. “This is not how allies should be negotiating.”
Mr. Fekl’s comments show how skepticism of trade deals is surging on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., President Barack Obama faces a tough battle in Congress to pass another major trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders bolstered their support during the presidential race by strongly opposing trade deals, putting pressure on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to adopt a more skeptical stance on trade.
In Europe, politicians in the bloc’s biggest economic powers, France and Germany, find themselves under fire for supporting negotiations with the U.S. Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s right-wing National Front party, has repeatedly attacked President Franç ois Hollande for backing the talks.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday that “the negotiations with the Americans have failed. Just nobody says that.”
The U.S. and the EU agreed to start the talks in 2013. Most European nations, eager for policies to jolt the region’s sagging growth prospects, enthusiastically backed the negotiations.
The deal is expected to eliminate almost all tariffs and reduce regulatory red tape that acts to limit trade, establishing what would effectively be a vast, trans-Atlanic free-trade zone. But fears have persisted in Europe that the deal will require the region to accept U.S.-backed technologies, such as biotech crops, that the region opposes.