[A2k] Wall Street Journal: France Wants EU-U.S. Trade Talks Suspended
thiru at keionline.org
Thu Jul 4 01:27:46 PDT 2013
• EUROPE NEWS
• Updated July 3, 2013, 12:12 p.m. ET
France Wants EU-U.S. Trade Talks Suspended
Call to Delay Talks Follows Allegations U.S. Spied on EU
By GABRIELE PARUSSINI
PARIS—France on Wednesday proposed suspending the start of trade
negotiations between the U.S. and European Union, the latest fallout from
allegations of widespread American electronic-surveillance programs,
including spying on European allies.
The French government proposed delaying the talks—which are due to start on
Monday—by two weeks as it seeks to further clarify reports that the U.S.
National Security Agency spied on EU institutions and several European
nations' U.S. embassies.
"We can't open trade negotiations without at the same time having
discussions and verifications with the U.S. on intelligence activities,"
President François Hollande said at a press event in Berlin. Government
spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem had said earlier in the day it seemed
"wise" to suspend negotiations with the U.S. for 15 days, as Paris awaited
for the information it had demanded.
France's Socialist government, which has never looked enthusiastically on
the prospects of a free trade deal, will begin lobbying other EU member
countries to agree to the request, said Ms. Vallaud-Belkacem said.
But the French could have difficulty in garnering broad support within the
EU for a delay. Germany, the EU's most influential member country, said
Wednesday that Berlin remains committed to the EU-U.S. free trade
agreement. Berlin and Washington are in "close contact" on the matter,
said Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government,
and a delegation of German intelligence personnel and representatives of
the government will travel to Washington next week for talks.
"Europe will find a way" to voice its concerns about data protection and
privacy in talks on the EU-U.S. free trade deal, said Mr. Seibert.
Italy's Industry Minister Carlo Calenda also warned against any delay to
the talks. "It's a treaty that has a historic importance for the
trans-Atlantic relations and for world trade," said Mr. Calenda.
Finland's foreign trade minister Alexander Stubb said the negotiations
should proceed as planned, and an official from Lithuania, which holds the
rotating EU presidency, said the country doesn't foresee any delays in the
The U.K. is also against any delay. "The trade deal…has the potential to
reap huge benefits across Europe…we continue working toward it," said a
spokesman for the British government.
The proposal wasn't shot down in every European capital, however. Austria
"doesn't have a problem with the proposal in principal," said a foreign
The French government has been particularly vocal in its criticism of the
alleged U.S. spying. On Monday, Mr. Hollande said the trade talks hung in
the balance and demanded an explanation from the Obama administration.
French officials said Tuesday they were pushing the U.S. to beef
up individuals' right to privacy on the Internet, in an attempt to turn the
diplomatic blowup into action on a long-sought goal.
"In order for the negotiations to start, we need a climate of confidence,"
Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday during question time
in Parliament. "How can we have a climate of confidence if we don't even
know if delegations would be spied upon?"
The spat comes at a delicate time for trans-Atlantic relations. The trade
negotiations—which already look complex—could potentially create the
world's largest free trade space and boost the economy on both sides of the
Atlantic. France has already burned some goodwill in Europe by threatening
to veto the trade talks if the continent's film, music and TV industries
weren't excluded—allowing Paris to continue subsidies under what it calls
the "exception culturelle."
The call from France to delay the start of the trade talks follows similar
comments by the second largest group in the European Parliament, the
center-left Socialists and Democrats Group. In a statement Tuesday, the
group called on the commission to delay talks until the U.S. has
fully disclosed its spying activities on the EU.
"We need credible assurances from the Americans that all such activities
have been permanently discontinued," said Austrian lawmaker Hannes Swoboda,
who leads the S&D.
The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said the U.S.
is responding to the EU privately about the allegations.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm and lead trade negotiator,
said Tuesday that the talks would go ahead as planned. The commission said
that while it had "strong concerns" about the spying allegations, the start
of the trade talks "should not be affected."
—--Harriet Torry in Berlin, Laurence Norman in Brussels, Nick Winning in
London, Giada Zampano in Rome, Nicole Lundeen in Vienna, Juhana Rossi in
Helsinki and Martin van Tartwijk in Amsterdam contributed to this article.
Write to Gabriele Parussini at gabriele.parussini at dowjones.com
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