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European Union/transatlantic trade partnership

Published on December 18, 2014
Interview given by M. Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, to the daily newspaper Libération
Paris, December 15, 2014

Q. – What are you expecting from European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström’s visit to Paris today, Monday?

THE MINISTER – For the first time, a European commissioner responsible for trade matters and trade negotiations between the EU and the United States will be speaking to the strategic committee I radically reformed on my arrival at the Quai d’Orsay. So Cecilia Malmström will address representatives of NGOs, trade unions and employers’ federations directly. The time of European commissioners coming for meetings behind closed doors in grand Parisian hotel function rooms is over, especially since Brussels takes a number of our concerns into account today.

Q. – Which ones?

THE MINISTER – On the arbitral tribunals mechanism, for example. I heard the Commission’s new president, Jean-Claude Juncker, explain that he would be paying very close attention to this. And on transparency: the European Commission making the negotiating mandate public is a step in the right direction. In France, we have also created a special page on the Quai d’Orsay’s website to keep French people informed about these negotiations.

Q. – On the subject of which, how far have these negotiations got?

THE MINISTER – With the previous Commission’s mandate coming to an end, the new Commission being installed and mid-term elections in the United States, the political situation wasn’t conducive to progress.

What’s most important is not to rush into the negotiation but to say what we want: how can our products be better recognized in the United States? On what conditions can America’s procurement contracts open up to our big companies and SMEs etc.?

Q. – Some studies reckon, above all, that such an agreement would lower European social standards…

THE MINISTER – We need further studies and assessments made, particularly on trade agreements which have already been passed. We shall be paying very close attention to social and environmental standards being respected. It is out of the question for government policies and collective decisions to be challenged. France also thinks it urgent for these trade discussions to be restarted in the multilateral framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Europe must build a growth and investment strategy, and these international agreements can be a lever for this. It is up to us, France, to bring to these negotiations our ideas about fair exchange, about the reciprocity of the agreements and trade standards.

Q. – “Fair exchange” is above all a concept championed by the social democrats. Yet the majority of the Commission is conservative and liberal…

THE MINISTER – This coming Monday, we’ll get some messages across.
Europe means the Commission, but it also means the European Parliament, the member states and its national parliaments. There’s no point in negotiating if, in the end, member states reject the agreement. The Commission must take everyone’s ideas into account, otherwise the states won’t accept it./.

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