TTIP negotiators to push ahead despite anti-trade sentiment

Activists take part in a march against the TTIP and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) in Berlin, Germany, Sept 17, 2016.
Activists take part in a march against the TTIP and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) in Berlin, Germany, Sept 17, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Negotiators on the ambitious transatlantic trade treaty pledged on Friday (Oct 7) to push ahead despite rising anti-free trade sentiment and the rejection of new trade deals by US and European politicians.

Ending their 15th round of negotiations in New York, US and European Union negotiators said they had made "significant progress" as the talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) hone in on some of the most difficult issues.

But crucially, with some politicians running for top leadership positions in the United States and Europe bashing new trade deals as bad for workers and consumers, the two sides said they remain committed to reaching a deal.

"We have heard some sceptical voices about TTIP lately, but I want to emphasise that the United States remains fully engaged in these negotiations and is as committed as ever to their success," said chief US negotiator for the United States Dan Mullaney.

"We remain ready to move forward on an agreement that is in our mutual economic interest."

Ignacio Garcia-Bercero, the chief negotiator for the European Union, stressed that TTIP is a potent way to strengthen transatlantic ties and create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

"The reasons to continue these talks are as strong as three years ago when we started negotiating this biggest bilateral trade agreement in the world," he said in a statement.

"In this uncertain world, having close economic partners could help Europe to shape globalisation according to our high standards and according to our vision."

The two ambitious trade deals pushed by the administration of President Barack Obama, TTIP and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, both appear imperiled by the hot fight between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton to succeed him.

The deals aim to lower trade and investment barriers and harmonise regulations, but both have attracted deep criticism for eroding local business and consumer protections and potentially granting multinational corporations too much power.

Trump has strongly condemned both deals as job-killers and Clinton, perhaps swayed by the campaign's populist rhetoric, has said she would not pursue them if they prove to undermine the jobs of American workers.

In Europe, France and Germany are both headed to elections with some candidates warning that TTIP could hurt European workers and consumers.

On Friday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in Paris that Europe would not go down on its knees to reach a TTIP deal.

"Europe is now negotiating, but Europe is not going to kneel down in front of the Americans," he said.

"We are not going to toss into the wind the principles which have made Europe a success."