First it was Germany calling out the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as a “failed” deal, and now France is saying it wants to stop talking to the U.S. about the agreement altogether.
The U.S. has positively projected wrapping the TTIP free trade deal with the European Union before President Obama leaves office this year, but the looming U.S. election, Brexit and this recent commentary have all played their role in throwing a wrench in the deal.
French trade minister Matthias Fekl is gearing to request a freeze on TTIP talks at next month’s EU trade ministers’ meeting in Bratislava, and news of his plans come after Germany’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the deal has “de facto failed” though no one is admitting it.
Mistrust of the trade deal that will obviously benefit each participating nation differently could be to blame for the public discontent over TTIP, but there are political reasons it’s stalling too.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s clear and present disapproval of international trade deals may have soured the mood on doing trade deals with the U.S., and even Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s views on free trade haven’t garnered warm fuzzy feelings about international trade relations.
What’s more, both France and Germany have elections next year, and considering a Bertelsmann Foundation poll showed only 17 percent of Germans currently think TTIP is a good idea (compared to 55 percent who thought so two years ago) backing TTIP could easily mean losing votes.
“It is disappointing to read the comments from the French and German officials,” United States Fashion Industry Association president Julia K. Hughes said. “But we remain optimistic that the TTIP talks will continue. There are so many benefits for textile and apparel companies and we will continue to press for an agreement.”
Voices from the Hill have reiterated that much remains to be done on TTIP, but that hopes are high for getting there during this administration. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman is scheduled to travel to Europe in mid-September to help advance the talks that have now been underway for three years.
Voices from abroad, however, seem to think getting the deal done before next year is overly ambitious and highly unlikely. According to Reuters, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström told journalists TTIP had not in fact failed and that other countries in Europe are still backing the deal.
“From our perspective, we very much want to see a TTIP be negotiated and come to completion,” said Steve Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA). “We think there’s still a lot of energy behind it.”
The economic opportunities of the deal are still there, Lamar explained: TTIP would harmonize two of the biggest markets for apparel and footwear, and reduce costs for U.S. and EU manufacturers and the countries that do business with them.
What may be a problem, however, is the self-imposed “deadline” both the U.S. and EU have put on resolving this deal.
“The negotiations should be completed when they’re done, when people feel there’s a good deal on the table,” Lamar said. “Not because an election is about to happen or an administration is coming to an end.”
The recent negative commentary from France and Germany on TTIP could have been an effort to stall the talks or fodder for political consideration, but both parties negotiating the deal—the U.S. and the EU—have recommitted to moving it forward, so it remains to be seen what effect, if any, the present chatter will have on talks.