18:02 GMT18 January 2021
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    Brussels is set to host another round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a controversial trade deal proposing the creation of a comprehensive free trade zone between Europe and the US. But according to some analysts, with President Obama set to leave office in January, time for negotiations is running out.

    The next round of negotiations over the trade pact is set to begin next week in Brussels. But the French government insists that there is virtually no chance for the agreement to be reached before the end of the Obama presidency. On Tuesday, French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl suggested that it was simply "impossible."

    "I think a deal in 2016 is impossible and everyone knows it, including those who say otherwise," the minister said, as quoted by AFP.

    "We are waiting for so many serious offers from the United States, and there is absolutely no chance of things happening before the end of the [President Barack] Obama administration," Fekl added.

    The minister also warned that that the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, or CETA, which stipulates a free trade pact between Canada and the European Union, was also unlikely to be ratified this year, "because there is a lack of trust in internationalization, and a lack of delegation in the management of European security."

    Analysts believe that the United Kingdom's vote to leave the EU has significantly complicated TTIP negotiations. Following the Brexit vote, Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, suggested that the vote meant losing one of the trade deal's greatest proponents in the EU.

    "As the UK is part of the coalition of liberal trading economies in the EU, the US is losing one of the more like-minded countries from the group in Brussels sitting on the other side of the negotiating table," Bown said.

    Meanwhile, John Hilary, the executive director of the War on Want activist group, was more blunt, suggesting in the vote's aftermath that "Brexit may well be the last straw that broke the TTIP camel's back."

    Accordingly, it appears that the priorities of both Brussels and the leading European economies have quickly shifted: before negotiating with Washington, the bloc must first deal with Brexit's consequences.

    Subsequently, according to the Russian business news and analysis magazine Expert, the window of opportunity for Washington to come to an agreement with the Europeans is quickly closing. "President Barack Obama's term in office ends in January, and neither of the candidates in the race to take his place seem to want to commit themselves to concluding the trade deal."

    Presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has voiced reservations over the TTIP. On the Republican side, Donald Trump has been even more blunt, indicating that he would halt TTIP negotiations, withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and renegotiate or tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    In 2017, European leaders expect to begin a new round of TTIP negotiations, but Expert suggested that French President Francois Hollande is unlikely to approve the controversial agreement in an election year. In 2018, elections are scheduled in Germany and Italy, which may move TTIP back further. According to Italian lawmaker and former Agriculture Minister Paolo De Castro, Europe and the US may have to wait "at least until 2020" to reach a deal.

    The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership aims to slash trade barriers and open up the world's biggest free-trade zone between the US and the EU. While proponents of the deal have argued that the agreement would lead to an increase in trade, thereby boosting the economies of member states, critics have said that the free trade deal would only serve to transfer more power into the hands of oligarchic transnational business interests, undermining workers' rights, consumer protection, environmental interests, and privacy.


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    skepticism, commentary, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Brexit, European Union, Barack Obama, Europe, US, North America
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