Paris, May 3 (IANS) A day after Greenpeace leaked TTIP negotiation documents, which the environmental group claimed was really about “a huge transfer of power from people to big business”, France opposed the deal “at this stage”.
French President Francois Hollande said he was “at this stage” opposed to the free trade accord between the European Union and the US — the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — unless rules to protect domestic businesses were respected.
“At this stage of negotiations, France says no to TTIP because we are not for free trade without rules,” Hollande said.
“We will never accept questioning the essential principles for our agriculture, reciprocity in access to public markets,” he added.
French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said that Washington wants the all-encompassing TTIP trade deal with Europe to go through, but was unwilling to budge on many points, jeopardising the entire talks.
According to Greenpeace, the deal threatens to do away with a whole series of protections, such as those relating to the environment, consumer protection and food produce. The documents reveal some wide rifts between the US and EU in these areas.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has been discussed behind closed doors since 2013. It will affect a trade zone inhabited by 850 million people, and has received strident criticism from many Europeans who believe it was not in their best interest, RT news reported.
“In view of the United States’ state of mind today, that seems to be the most likely option,” French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said on Europe 1 radio on Tuesday, when asked if he thought the negotiations were in danger of halting.
“We want reciprocity. Europe offers a lot and gets very little in return. This is not acceptable,” Fekl said. “It is an agreement which, as it would be today, would be a bad deal… It cannot be agreed without France and even less against France,” he added.
“Trade is not an end in itself, it is a tool,” Fekl said, adding: “It would make no sense to have held the COP in December in Paris, this superb deal for the environment, and sign a few months after an agreement that would unravel it.”
The American authorities, however, do not seem worried by such exposure.
The US Trade Representative’s office has shrugged off the revelations, declining to comment on the “validity of alleged leaks”, a spokesperson said, adding that “the interpretations being given to these texts appear to be misleading at best and flat-out wrong at worst”.
Greenpeace wants the talks to stop. But the TTIP is Obama’s last chance as US president to get a deal in before his term ends in January, the report said.
While the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and Europe was set to create the world’s largest free trade zone, many Europeans worry that the agreement would elevate corporate interest above national interest.
TTIP opponents say that cheaper goods and services would only hurt the EU and help US corporations.
Europeans argue that international corporations would be given power at the expense of small and medium-sized businesses. The secrecy surrounding the negotiations has also come under fierce criticism.
People have been coming out on the streets to voice their protest to the deal, the latest such one being in Germany’s Hannover.