Don't let spying row taint trade talks, US State Secretary Kerry urges EU

United States Secretary of State John Kerry (above) on Tuesday, Nov 5, 2013, urged European leaders not to allow a row over revelations about US spying to disrupt talks with the European Union to create the world's largest free trade zone. -- PHOTO:
United States Secretary of State John Kerry (above) on Tuesday, Nov 5, 2013, urged European leaders not to allow a row over revelations about US spying to disrupt talks with the European Union to create the world's largest free trade zone. -- PHOTO: AFP

WARSAW (AFP) - United States Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday urged European leaders not to allow a row over revelations about US spying to disrupt talks with the European Union to create the world's largest free trade zone.

And he renewed calls for US partners to voice their concerns with Washington in order to strengthen "intelligence relationships" in the future.

Speaking on a visit to Poland, Mr Kerry said negotiations with the European Union for a proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would create "one of the most powerful economic forces on the planet, and it will raise the standards by which all countries are engaging in economic activities".

The second round of talks are set to resume on Nov 11 in Brussels after being postponed due to the US government shutdown last month.

But they have also been clouded by a wave of outrage among European leaders - most notably the leader of Europe's economic powerhouse German Chancellor Angela Merkel - after the revelations US security services had tapped European leaders' phones.

"We need to understand as partners we're all in this together. We're all in the effort to try to provide protection to our citizens," Mr Kerry said at a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski.

The United States was working to "strike the right balance between protecting our citizens and obviously the privacy of all of our citizens", he added.

US President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the intelligence services in the light ot the revelations from former US National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden.

Mr Kerry arrived late on Monday in Warsaw for a brief visit during which he also discussed defence and the proposed deployment of a US missile defence system in Poland by 2018.

Mr Sikorski said earlier this year that Poland would spend 33.6 billion euros ($43.3 billion) to upgrade the army and "build up its deterrence forces".

Mr Kerry also met Prime Minister Donald Tusk before talks with Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak at the Lask air base where US and Polish pilots have been training since November 2012.

He lauded Poland's plan to invest tens of billions in defence and pitched US-made equipment.

"With this investment Poland is showing its steadfast commitment to peace and to stability and it is sending a powerful message to all NATO members," Mr Kerry said.

"We believe deeply in the quality" of US arms, Mr Kerry added, while pointing to F-16 warplanes on display at Lask.

"We are prepared to make that equipment available to Poland as it makes its choices," he said.

The State Department has hailed Poland as an economic success story after it shed communism in 1989.

And US officials underscore that EU and NATO member Poland is investing $100 billion in defence modernisation, energy and other infrastructure upgrades over the next 10 years.

Earlier Tuesday in Warsaw, the top US diplomat, who last week said that US spying activities had gone too far, urged European leaders to voice their concerns.

"We want to hear from our allies, we want to have this conversation," Kerry said.

"If we get this right, which we will, we can not only alleviate concerns but we can actually strengthen our intelligence relationships going forward."

But he urged the Europeans not to confuse the issue with the trade talks.

"The TTIP is really separate from and different from any other issues that people may have on their minds. This is about jobs, it's about the economy, it's about economic competition in a global economy that competes sometimes by rules that are very questionable and shaky."

"That should not be confused with whatever legitimate questions exist with respect to NSA and other activities," Mr Kerry said.

Mr Kerry left Poland on Tuesday afternoon, headed for talks with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank later in the day.