The EU Commission appears to be giving up hope to reach a trade agreement with the US, saying a relaunch of talks on the TTIP pact is unlikely with a president so fundamentally opposed to free trade.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said Friday that it would probably make no sense to expect more talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the Trump administration.
Although Malmstöm admitted that senior officials in the EU executive Commission "don't really know what will happen," she said that the free trade agreement between the US and the EU "might not be the biggest priority" of the President-elect.
"There is strong reason to believe that there would be a pause in TTIP," she told reporters in Brussels.
Malmstöm's remarks came ahead of a meeting of EU trade ministers, who will also discuss anti-dumping measures to protect EU industry against unfairly cheap imports. It is unlikely, however, that they will officially call TTIP talks to be over.
Originally, the 28-nation bloc hoped to seal TTIP with the Obama administration by the end of the year. But in the course of three years of negotiations, resistance has been mounting on both sides of the Atlantic, preventing a breakthrough in recent months.
Critics fear that deregulating trade across what would be the world's largest free trade area will benefit large corporations at the expense of consumers and local employees.
Hopes for a free trade pact have been waning rapidly after Donald Trump won the US presidential election on Wednesday. Trump has repeatedly argued that international trade deals hurt US workers and the country's competitiveness.
Trump has promised to get tough with China on the Asian country's huge trade surplus with the US, and said he would withdraw from the unfinalised 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as well as renegotiate or scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.
Trump will likely appoint a trade representative in March or April. His choice could be key for the future of TTIP talks, with possible appointees ranging from the protectionist Dan DiMicco, former CEO of steelmaker Nucor, to libertarian PayPal founder Peter Thiel.
uhe/jd (Reuters, dpa)