The comments from Emma Marcegaglia, President of Brussels-based BusinessEurope, come amid ongoing uncertainty about the future of the protracted transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) talks between the two sides.
German deputy Chancellor and economy minister Sigmar Gabriel said over the weekend that he believed the possibility of agreeing a trade deal was effectively dead.
He said, “In my opinion, the negotiations [over a free trade deal] with the US have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it.”
But on Wednesday, Marcegaglia issued a statement, saying, “TTIP is too important to fail. We are in the course of a hard negotiation and we need strong political commitment from the EU and the US to reach an agreement.
“Business on both sides is strongly engaged and we expect politicians to deliver. We need to boost growth and jobs in Europe and TTIP is one of the best means to achieve it.”
The organisation points out that the US is the EU’s largest trade and investment partner and the two sides are in the middle of a complex bilateral negotiation.
Marcegaglia said, “Both sides knew from the start that it would not be easy for the two leading world economies to agree on an ambitious and forward looking trade and investment agreement. But they also knew that the expected benefits would be worth the efforts.”
BusinessEurope, which represent over 30 business federations, says 2016 is a “decisive year” for TTIP and both the EU and the US “need to move forward” despite any political constraints that might be shaping the debate at national level.
Only in this way we will be able to achieve the desired sustainable growth that everyone wants in Europe, it states.
Marcegaglia added: “It took us five years to conclude CETA (the EU’s free trade agreement with Canada. We are negotiating TTIP for three years and this is a more complex agreement. We need to give negotiators a reasonable time to deliver the high quality deal that everyone expects. So the negotiations must go on”.
Despite her remarks, France cast serious doubt on Tuesday on the prospects of an EU free trade deal with the US, adding to opposition within Germany and growing scepticism among Americans.
“Everything is moving. In this situation it’s just not going to happen,” said Peter van Ham, senior research fellow at Dutch think tank Clingendael and author of a paper on Tuesday called “TTIP is dead, long live transatlantic trade”.
French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said he would request a halt to TTIP talks at next month’s EU trade ministers’ meeting in Bratislava.
In the United States, President Obama has promoted the deal, saying it would fuel growth.
But the public mood is turning increasingly negative, with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump making attacks on international trade deals a cornerstone of his campaign, saying they have cost US jobs.
A Bertelsmann Foundation poll showed only 17 perc ent of Germans saw TTIP as a good thing in April, down from 55 per cent two years earlier.
EU trade chief Cecelia Malmström told journalists earlier this week that negotiations had not failed and that many EU countries had said they still backed TTIP.