Austria, France to propose restarting EU-U.S. trade talks under new name

BERLIN (Reuters) - Austria and France will on Friday propose ending the current round of trade talks between the United States and the European Union, and starting fresh talks under a new name, Austrian Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner said.

Austrian Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner arrives for a cabinet meeting in Vienna, Austria, September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

“The free trade talks with the USA should begin again under a new title and with different substantive headings,” including greater transparency, Mitterlehner told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper.

He said he and French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl would push for a new start to the WTO’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) at a meeting of EU trade ministers in the Slovakian capital Bratislava.

He said the talks should resume after the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8.

Washington and Brussels are officially committed to sealing the free trade deal before President Barack Obama leaves office in January, but their chances of doing so are being eroded by approaching elections on both sides of the Atlantic and Britain’s vote in June to leave the European Union.

Fekl last month said he would request a halt to TTIP talks at the ministerial meeting after German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel declared that they were “de facto dead”.

The French minister told the Handeslblatt newspaper that the United States had demanded too much and not compromised enough.

“A crazy machine is moving here, the negotiations are a failure, nobody believes that they will come to a successful conclusion,” he was quoted as saying.

French business lobbies called on Thursday for the TTIP talks to be extended.

Mitterlehner said officials needed to ensure that investment protections modelled on the European system were included in the future free trade pact, and that it would not have a negative impact on standards, pensions or the healthcare system.

“TTIP has become a metaphor for the exuberant dealings of big corporations. That has a negative connotation. We hope for a good deal, but it has to be approached differently,” Mitterlehner told the Welt newspaper.

He said he saw growing support for a new start.

“We don’t have the backing of everyone, but many colleagues are supporting us privately,” he said.

Ending the TTIP talks for now could also help ensure passage of a separate free trade deal with Canada, he said.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Robin Pomeroy