September 28, 2015 / 7:40 PM / 4 years ago

Germany's Gabriel doubts U.S., EU will make trade breakthrough this year

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel (L) attend a meeting of German state leaders to discuss the migrant crisis, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, September 24, 2015. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed doubts on Monday that the European Union and the United States would reach an agreement in trade talks by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s December target date.

Merkel has said Berlin aimed to reach a political framework for the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the world’s biggest trade pact, by the end of this year.

Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats, Merkel’s coalition partners, questioned whether a deal would be done before the U.S. elections in November 2016.

“I have my doubts if there will be a political framework for TTIP before the U.S. elections,” he said, speaking at a panel discussion hosted by the Jacques Delors Institut think-tank.

The negotiations on the trade deal are stuck and neither side has come any closer on important areas such as the opening up of agricultural markets and public services, Gabriel said.

France’s junior trade minister, Matthias Fekl, said at the same event that Washington lacked a spirit of compromise in the negotiations and that if the United States was not willing to change its position, Paris could not rule out leaving the talks.

If agreed, TTIP would encompass a third of world trade and create a market of 800 million people.

While businesses hope the trade deal may deliver more than $100 billion of economic gains on both sides of the Atlantic, opponents say TTIP could erode European standards on food safety and the environment.

Reporting by Reinhard Becker; Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Louise Ireland

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