Germany's Merkel says EU should keep negotiating with U.S. on free trade deal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the state funeral of former President Walter Scheel in Berlin, Germany, September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union should keep negotiating with the United States on a new free trade deal known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The EU and the US are officially aiming to sign the deal before U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office in January, but there are now major doubts about it.

Merkel’s deputy, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel - a member of the Social Democrats, junior coalition partner in Germany’s ruling coalition - unleashed a firestorm last month when he said the free trade talks are “de facto dead”. France and Belgium have cast doubt on the prospect of the new trade deal and scepticism is growing among Americans.

“I advocate negotiations continuing now,” Merkel told the Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper chain.

She said that many EU member states were suffering from high unemployment, adding: “That’s why we should support everything that can create jobs and that includes the free trade deal.”

Merkel said she had told U.S. President Barack Obama that during the G20 summit held in China earlier this week.

Asked if the deal still had a chance of coming to pass, Merkel said: “That now depends on the further negotiating process.”

Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by Ralph Boulton