BRUSSELS: European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker will press EU leaders at a summit next month to back a historic free trade deal with the United States despite growing skepticism about the pact, a spokesman said Monday.
Washington and Brussels want the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) completed this year before US President Barack Obama leaves office, but it has faced mounting opposition especially in France and Germany.
“If we are to deliver on this commitment we have to make sure that we are all rowing in the same direction,” European Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario told a daily briefing.
“President Juncker feels that the time has come to ask the heads of states and government of the European Union to have a new discussion on where we are and where we want to get with this negotiation,” he added.
“At the June European Council [summit], President Juncker will ask the leaders of the EU to reconfirm the commission’s mandate to conduct these talks.”
Despite mounting opposition to the deal and the slow pace on the TTIP talks since they began in 2013, Juncker “reaffirmed his trust and confidence” in the EU’s chief negotiator, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, Rosario said.
Polls show that Germans are growing increasingly wary of the proposed pact despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s continued support.
In France, President Francois Hollande said earlier this month that Paris would reject it “at this stage”.
There is deep suspicion in Europe that the deal will erode ecological and health regulations to the advantage of big business.
A poll said nearly two thirds of French people don’t trust the government to defend the country’s interests in the negotiations.
TTIP aims to topple regulatory and tariff barriers to trade and investment.