German economy minister says EU-US trade talks have failed


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BERLIN (AP) — Free trade talks between the European Union and the United States have failed, Germany's economy minister said Sunday, citing a lack of progress on any of the major sections of the long-running negotiations.

Both Washington and Brussels have pushed for a deal by the end of the year, despite strong misgivings among some EU member states over the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

Sigmar Gabriel, who is also Germany's vice chancellor, compared the TTIP negotiations unfavorably with a free trade deal forged between the 28-nation EU and Canada, which he said was fairer for both sides.

"In my opinion, the negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it," Gabriel said during a question-and-answer session with citizens in Berlin.

He noted that in 14 rounds of talks, the two sides haven't agreed on a single common item out of 27 chapters being discussed.

Gabriel accused Washington of being "angry" about the deal that the EU struck with Canada, known as CETA, because it contains elements the U.S. doesn't want to see in the TTIP.

"We mustn't submit to the American proposals," said Gabriel, who is also the head of Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party.

In Washington, there was no immediate comment from the office of the U.S. trade representative.

Christian Wigand, a spokesman for the European Commission, the EU's executive arm and which is leading the TTIP negotiations, said Sunday that the institution had no comment or reaction at this time.

Gabriel's ministry isn't directly involved in the negotiations with Washington because trade agreements are negotiated at the EU level. But such a damning verdict from a leading official in Europe's biggest economy is likely to make further talks between the EU executive and the Obama administration harder.

Gabriel's comments contrast with those of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said last month that TTIP was "absolutely in Europe's interest."

Popular opposition to a free trade agreement with the United States is strong in Germany. Campaigners have called for nationwide protests against the talks on Sept. 17 — about year before Germany's next general election.

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Frank Jordans

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