The United States says it still hopes to complete a massive trade pact with the European Union by the end of 2016, even after French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that negotiations had stalled.
The White House said President Barack Obama was sending his top trade official, Michael Froman, to Europe in September to renew talks aimed at creating the world’s largest free-trade zone. The United States is the world’s single biggest economy, but collectively, the 28-nation EU is even bigger.
«Our position on this has not changed,» said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. «We are continuing to work toward a goal of completing those negotiations before the end of the year,» just weeks before Obama leaves office in January.
Hollande said, «France prefers to look things in the face. These discussions cannot result in an agreement by the end of the year. The negotiations have bogged down, the positions have not been respected, the imbalance is obvious.»
French trade chief Matthias Fekl accused Washington of offering just «crumbs» in the negotiations. He said that next month Paris would ask the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to halt the talks with the U.S.
On Sunday, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the negotiations «have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it.»
However, the commission said Monday that while the talks «are now indeed entering a crucial stage,» it still wanted to complete a deal by late in the year.
The trade talks started in 2013 but now are facing headwinds in the United States, France and Germany, where opposition to international trade deals has emerged as all three countries head to national elections.