TTIP in further doubt as Hollande questions timing

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The TTIP trade deal was dealt another blow on Tuesday as the French president cast doubt on when an agreement would be reached.

Francois Hollande said it would not be finalised before Barack Obama left office later this year.

Meanwhile, Germany's economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said it had no chance of being agreed before the US presidential election in November.

The Americans were unwilling to compromise with Europe, he said.

Mr Gabriel, who said over the weekend that the talks had in effect failed, also questioned whether the deal had any chance after the election.

"But if the Americans don't move towards the Europeans, then Europe can't agree to a 'TTIP light'. And with this, the project - at least how it was all planned for this year - has failed," he said.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said on Tuesday that talks had not broken down and the aim was still to strike a deal before President Obama left office.

"I do not agree that TTIP negotiations have failed," she said. "They have been difficult, of course, we knew from the beginning, but they have not failed."

US trade representative Michael Froman told German magazine Der Spiegel that talks on TTIP were progressing.

The US and the European Union have been negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, also known as TTIP, for three years. Both sides had aimed to agree a deal this year.

TTIP aims to reduce or remove a wide range of barriers to transatlantic trade and investment, but has proved controversial in both Europe and America.

Its supporters say the deal could deliver bring economic gains of more than $100bn to both sides of the Atlantic, but critics argue it would give too much power to multinationals at the expense of consumers and workers.

'Bogged down'

President Hollande said in a speech to French diplomats that France wanted to "see things as they are".

"These discussions cannot result in an agreement by the end of the year. The negotiations have bogged down, the positions have not been respected, the imbalance is obvious," he added.

The French leader's comments followed a call by trade minister Matthias Fekl to end negotiations, which he said no longer had political support in France because US negotiators "give nothing or just crumbs".

He wanted a "clear, clean, definitive stop" to the talks, which could resume if wider EU-US trade relations improved.

Mr Fekl said France would ask the European Commission to suspend the talks when trade ministers meet in Slovakia next month.

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Italy's trade minister said that a TTIP deal would be reached, but the talks would take longer than expected.

Carlo Calenda said that "TTIP will be sealed - it is inevitable", adding that it was essential for Italian exporters.

The minister admitted it would be difficult to reach a deal before Mr Obama left office, but added: "We have to carry on. This accord is essential for Italy."

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