January 19, 2015 / 10:54 AM / 3 years ago

EU health chief says no clear majority yet for U.S. trade deal

BERLIN (Reuters) - No clear majority has so far emerged among EU states for a free-trade agreement between the European Union and the United States and both sides need to explain the benefits of such a deal, the EU’s health chief said.

Health and Food Safety Commissioner-designate Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis of Lithuania gestures before his address to the European Parliament's Committees on Agriculture and Rural Development and Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, at the EU Parliament in Brussels September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged the 28-nation EU to speed up negotiations with the United States on what would be the world’s biggest trade deal. But there is public opposition in Europe based on fears of weaker food and environmental standards.

“We have to take people’s concerns seriously,” Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for health and food safety, told German daily Tagesspiegel, adding that the trade agreement ultimately needed to be ratified by all national parliaments.

“At the moment, I don’t see a safe majority for this yet,” he said in an interview published on Monday, adding the EU Commission had published some negotiating papers to improve transparency.

The EU has said the final wording would, however, remain confidential until an agreement was reached on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Negotiations for the TTIP were launched in July 2013 and officials are seeking a deal that goes well beyond trade to remove barriers to businesses. There is concern in Europe that U.S. multinationals would use a proposed investment protection clause to bypass national laws in EU countries.

In Berlin, more than 25,000 people joined a rally against the TTIP and genetically modified food over the weekend.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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