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France rules out imminent EU-US trade deal, wants talks halted

But the White House said it still hoped to wrap up negotiations by the year’s end to create the world’s largest free trade area.

“Our position on this has not changed,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “We are continuing to work toward a goal of completing those negotiations before the end of the year.”

The EU commissioner in charge of the negotiations said talks have not broken down and the aim is still a deal by the time Obama leaves office.

But French junior trade minister Matthias Fekl said there was “no more political support in France” for the talks because U.S. negotiators were offering “nothing or just crumbs.”

“France calls for an end to these negotiations,” Fekl told RMC radio.

Hollande, in a speech to France’s diplomatic corps, chose his words more carefully saying it would be an “illusion” to say a deal was close.

“The current discussions on the treaty between Europe and the United States will not lead to an agreement by the end of the year,” he said.

“France would rather see things as they are and not harbor the illusion that an agreement will be struck before the end of the U.S. president’s term in office.”

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem however said that she did not agree that the negotiations had failed.

“They have been difficult, of course, we knew from the beginning, but they have not failed,” she said.

Germany’s vice chancellor and economy minister Sigmar Gabriel had said Sunday the negotiations were effectively dead.

“The talks with the U.S. have de facto failed because we Europeans of course must not succumb to American demands … nothing is moving forward,” Gabriel said.

The EU Commission and U.S. negotiators began work on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in 2013.

But the talks have become bogged down amid widespread suspicion in the 28-nation EU that a deal would undercut the bloc’s standards in key areas such as health and welfare.

Malmstroem admitted there would be no deal by the end of this year as originally envisaged when the talks started.

“I don’t want to analyze the mind and the intentions of President Hollande. And it is clear that for the moment we do not have enough — we can’t conclude before the end of the year,” the Swede said.

She said the aim was still to conclude a deal under the Obama presidency, adding: “And if that is not possible it makes sense to make as much progress as possible.”

However Fekl said Paris sees an imbalance in the negotiations in favor of the U.S. side.

“The Americans give nothing or just crumbs… that is not how negotiations are done between allies,” he said.