WARSAW (Reuters) - European concerns about alleged electronic eavesdropping by U.S. intelligence should not be allowed to cloud trade talks next week between the United States and the European Union, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.
“This is a trade partnership. It has the ability to lift all of our countries,” Kerry said on a visit to Poland. “(It) is really separate from any other issues that people may have on their minds.”
European governments have asked Washington for explanations after newspapers printed allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the mobile phones of senior officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Negotiators from the United States and Europe are scheduled to start a week of talks in Brussels on November 11 to try to hammer out what will be the world’s biggest free-trade deal. It will be the second round of negotiations on the agreement.
Kerry said the deal would create the most powerful marketplaces on the face of the planet.
“Together that can have a profound positive impact to our people, it will put millions of people to work, create new jobs, more opportunities and it is worth pushing for,” Kerry said.
“Now that should not be confused with whatever legitimate questions exist with respect to NSA or other issues. We want to hear from our allies, we want to have this conversation.”
Referring to the role of intelligence agencies in both Europe and the United States in protecting citizens from threats to their security, Kerry said: “We’re all in this together.”
Kerry, speaking to reporters alongside his Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski, also said U.S. companies, with government support, would compete vigorously to win major defense contracts being put out to tender by Poland.
He said the U.S. military’s plans to set up missile defense facilities in eastern Europe, including Poland, were on track.
A missile defense plan drawn up by a previous U.S. administration angered Russia, prompting U.S. President Barack Obama to reduce the scope of the deployment. After that, Poland sought reassurances that Washington would not back out entirely.
“The plans for missile defense are absolutely on target. We have already, on October 28, broken ground on the phase two, and we intend to provide for the next phase in 2018,” Kerry said.
“That is our plan. Nothing has changed in that at this point in time. I don’t foresee it changing at this point,” Kerry said. “Obviously we will fulfill our obligations and work together with the government of Poland with respect to the deployment.”
Additional reporting by Marcin Goettig; Writing by Christian Lowe