July 3, 2014 / 4:37 PM / 4 years ago

Merkel urges big push on EU-U.S. free trade deal

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s Angela Merkel made a strong plea on Thursday for the European Union and the United States to complete their talks about forming a new transatlantic free trade area.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pictured on TV camera monitor as she addresses the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, at the start of a debate on the 2014 budget at the Reichstag in Berlin April 9, 2014. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

“I feel totally committed to this deal and really want to implement it,” the chancellor told a conference of business supporters of her conservative party in Berlin, warning them about the “false arguments” used by the deal’s detractors.

Supporters say creating the world’s largest free-trade pact, and a marketplace of 815 million people, could boost the EU and U.S. economies by $100 billion a year each.

But the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has met resistance in Europe, including concerns about imports of U.S. food and the need to protect European culture.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the opening of the German Resistance Memorial Center in Berlin, July 1, 2014. REUTERS/Michael Sohn/Pool

Merkel’s frustration at the talks’ slow progress was echoed by former U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab, who told the conference in Berlin that opponents of the deal should be aware of the potential cost of turning it down.

“Sometimes, for those of us who are pro-trade activists, we are frustrated that things are not moving more quickly,” said Schwab, adding: “If you want to protect French movies and television, then it should cost you.”

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told the conference that TTIP could boost economic growth and create jobs in Europe “by providing new opportunities for companies to grow and become more efficient” and lowering the cost of imports such as energy.

The EU and U.S. account for almost half the world economy and more than a third of global trade, with two-way trade in goods alone worth more than $2 billion a day.

De Gucht said there was plenty of discussion across Europe about the benefits and risks of the trade deal, “and nowhere in Europe is the debate as lively as in Germany”.

The EU commissioner tried to reassure his German audience, saying: “The United States is not the deregulated ‘Wild West’.”

Reporting by Stephen Brown; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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