France warns US over Transatlantic treaty

France says it is ready to pull out of talks over the controversial Transatlantic free-trade agreement between the EU and the US, because the "secretive" negotiations were favouring American interests over French ones.

France warns US over Transatlantic treaty
The TTIP is not popular with everyone, let alone the French government it seems. Photo: AFP

The warning was given by France’s Secretary of State for Foreign Commerce Mathias Fekl, who said Paris is on the verge of pulling the plug on the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The controversial treaty has long been the cause of angst in France and a French minister has given the clearest indication yet that Paris may not be willing to go on with talks that began in July 2013.

Mathias Fekl is angry that France's main concerns are not being taken into account and that the negotiations have so far prioritized American wishes over European ones.

In an interview with French newspaper Sud Ouest, Fekl said the negotiations “either weren't advancing or were progressing in the wrong direction”.

“If nothing changes, it will show that there isn't the will to achieve mutually beneficial negotiations. France will consider all options including an outright termination of negotiations,” Fekl warned.

'The US has failed to reciprocate'

The secretary of state said that the US had to make greater efforts as the EU has done and take into account France's concerns.

“We do not feel the US is taking into account our wishes around services, nor on the issue of private arbitration courts. The negotiations should certainly enable our small and medium sized companies and farmers to have access to the markets,” he said.

“Europe has made offers in all areas, but the United States has failed to reciprocate, whether it's access to the public contracts or agricultural markets,” Fekl said.

If it goes ahead the TTIP will be the largest trade agreement in the world, affecting around €850 million consumers.

Washington and Brussels hope the free trade deal will deliver a major boost to growth and jobs, especially in Europe where the euro debt crisis has left the economy stuck in the doldrums. 

An accord would be the world's largest Free Trade Agreement, with bilateral trade in goods last year worth some €500 billion ($670 billion), services worth another €280 billion, and investment flows hitting the trillions.

Critics however say it will simply lead to more corporate power at the expense of governments.

No consideration of French wishes

One of the most divisive parts of the agreement is known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

The ISDS basically sets the rules for foreign companies investing in other countries and allows an investor to bring a government to an arbitration court if they have broken an agreement.

Fekl has repeatedly expressed his government’s opposition to ISDS.

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In his interview with Sud Ouest, the secretary of state also blasted the talks for taking place in a shroud of secrecy.

“There is a total lack of transparency… and that poses a problem for democracy,” the secretary of state said.

“MPs should have access to documents elsewhere than just in the secure rooms of the United States embassy in Paris, which has been the case up to now,” he said.

“American lawmakers have access to a far greater number of documents than their European counterparts,” Fekl added.

In France the trade deal has been strongly criticised by both parties on the far left as well as far right.

In July last year a hundred of France's leading luminaries launched a campaign to oppose Europe’s negotiations with the United States that would create a massive free trade zone.

The group are worried about a lowering of “social standards”, as well as tainted American food products.

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