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US election 'shouldn't slow' Atlantic trade talks

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US election 'shouldn't slow' Atlantic trade talks

Cecilia Malmstroem - Photo EC

(WASHINGTON) - Europe's top trade official said Wednesday that talks with Washington on an ambitious trans-Atlantic trade treaty continue despite US elections which have put such deals on the firing line.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) continue with hopes of reaching a deal before the end of President Barack Obama's term in January.

"For the moment we continue to negotiate, to agree on as much as possible with this administration," she said in Washington, where she was holding meetings on TTIP with her counterpart, US Trade Representative Michael Froman.

"Just because there's an election, we can't stop our activity," she said.

Candidates running for both the Democratic and Republican Party nominations to compete in November to succeed Obama have uniformly attacked both the TTIP and the already agreed, but not yet ratified Trans Pacific Partnership trade and investment pact.

Both are major initiatives of Obama, but politicians and many in the public argue that US workers lose jobs with such deals.

That atmosphere has made it difficult for Obama to push ratification of the TPP, signed last month, through Congress this election year.

It also raises questions of whether the TTIP, when agreed, will gain political support.

Malmstroem, who faces pressure back home from European critics of the talks, said they do not want to scale back the scope of negotiations to make a deal easier to reach.

Leaving out certain issues dear to Europeans could make the treaty even harder to pass through the European parliament and earn the endorsement of member states, she noted.

"It can be done," she said of a final deal.

Referring to US and European moves to put high anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese steel products, Malmstroem said Beijing has to do its part to support "fair competition" in global trade.

"China needs to behave more responsibly, and to make sure that its overproduction of steel is not dumped into the global markets," she said.

"It can compete, but it has to be fair competition, and right now China is not contributing to that."

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