France wants mandate for EU-US trade talks published

Mon Jul 29, 2013 12:04pm EDT
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PARIS (Reuters) - France called on Monday for the European Commission to make public its mandate to negotiate EU-U.S. free-trade talks, citing what it said was an atmosphere of mistrust over efforts to forge a landmark pact.

The U.S. and EU launched the negotiations earlier this month despite European concerns about U.S. spying that had threatened to delay the start after nearly two years of preparation. France moreover only agreed to the talks after securing assurances that its entertainment industry would be ringfenced.

"The first week of discussions on a transatlantic partnership agreement closed in a climate of doubt," Trade Minister Nicole Bricq wrote in French newspaper Liberation.

"The U.S. once again showed its splendid ambivalence. It is a country where everything seems possible and whose dynamism and energy we French envy. At the same time it is a prickly power incapable of resisting the temptations its supremacy gives it."

Stressing the need for transparency in the talks, Bricq said she had asked EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht to break with usual procedure and make the EU's negotiation mandate public.

"It doesn't contain any secrets. It's a political statement that calls for an agreement that respects our values and interests. It deserves to be debated," she said.

The Commission said it would gladly publish the mandate, but noted any such decision could only be taken by the EU Council - the body composed of the EU's 28 member states.

"It is a legal decision to be made by France along with all other member states as this is a Council document," Commission spokesman for trade policy John Clancy said by email.

The Commission's mandates to negotiate international trade deals are not made public because it could weaken the EU's hand by revealing its limits to Washington and U.S. lobbies. That said, unofficial leaks of the mandate are common.   Continued...

France's Foreign Trade Minister Nicole Bricq gestures during a news conference at the French Embassy in Beijing, January 21, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily