French President François Hollande just dealt a significant blow to the controversial EU-U.S. trade pact known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
A day after leaked documents revealed “irreconcilable” difference between Europe and the United States over TTIP, Hollande said Tuesday he could not back the trade deal in its current form. The documents leaked Monday showed the two sides are still at odds over U.S. demands that would require the EU to abandon environmental protection promises, as well as concerns about consumer protections, and animal welfare standards.
Negotiators have met 13 times over nearly three years to negotiate the deal in secret. Officials in Paris have expressed skepticism over the pact in the past, but this is the first time France’s president has rejected the deal outright.
“We will never accept questioning essential principles for our agriculture, our culture and for the reciprocity of access to public [procurement] markets,” AFP quoted Hollande as saying at a meeting of left-wing politicians in Paris. “At this stage [of talks] France says ‘No.’”
Earlier Tuesday, France’s trade secretary, Matthias Fekl, said it was most likely that negotiations over the deal would be suspended. “It is an agreement which, as it would be today, would be a bad deal,” he said during a French radio interview.
Europeans are widely skeptical of the trade pact, which would potentially impact 800 million people if signed. Polls show that only 50 percent of French citizens back it. In Germany, that number drops to 39 percent. When President Barack Obama visited Germany recently to sell the deal, an estimated 35,000 people took to the streets to protest it.
French domestic politics are also at play here. Hollande, a Socialist, is deeply unpopular among his public, so coming out against TTIP gives him a boost among leftist French voters opposed to the deal.
Still, even if Hollande is playing to French voters, his comments are a setback for Obama, who wants to get TTIP done before he leaves office. Without France on board, this will be close to impossible.
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