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The EU-US free trade agreement (TTIP) has been thrown into doubt as opposition to the deal continues to grow.

Launched back in 2013, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in now heading for its 15th round of negotiations and if signed would create the world’s largest free trade area. European officials estimate that the deal would boost the EU’s GDP by €120bn, or 0.5%- with the expected GDP growth in Ireland estimated to be 1.1% as well as creating up to 10,000 additional jobs. In particular, the deal offers a big opportunity for the dairy industry, providing a high value market for Irish branded products and removing technical and regulatory barriers, which would allow Irish exporters to cut costs and grow their overseas business.

Nevertheless there has been increasing scepticism in recent months, in particular from environmental NGOs, who argue that the deal would undermine labour and environmental standards. Following doubts being raised by Germany and France, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated at a meeting of heads of state in July, that European standards would not be compromised and won fresh backing from all EU leaders to continue the negotiations.

However, developments in the last week have once again left the deal up in the air. German Deputy Chancellor Gabriel Sigmar has claimed that disagreements between the EU and the US have “de facto” killed off any prospect of a deal. He was referring to the ongoing argument in the negotiations over agricultural issues, which resulted in US Ambassador Anthony Gardner complaining about the Commissions inflexibility with regard to geographical indicators (GIs). These are special protections for agricultural products that have a specific geographical origin, such as Champagne, or the Waterford Blaa, for example. While the US is prepared to recognise some European GIs, others such as Feta and Parmesan cheese are considered in the US to represent styles of cheese, not linked to a specific region.

Further to this, France’s Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl has announced that he will propose a motion to stop the talks at a meeting of EU trade ministers in Bratislava on Sept 23.

The Commission has strongly rebutted these claims, insisting that the deal is still moving forward and stood ready to be finalised by the end of the year. However, without the support of all 28 member states, the finalised deal cannot be adopted.

Beyond this, further uncertainly looms over the negotiations, namely resulting from the UK’s vote to leave the EU. As Britain is one of the biggest export markets for the US, now that it will not be included in the agreement, the deal as a whole is a lot less appealing for the US administration. In addition, the end of year deadline is looking increasingly difficult to meet and beginning in 2017 a new US administration will take over. With republican presidential candidate Donald Trump outspoken in his opposition to the agreement, the results of the US election are another critical factor in the deal’s success.

By Alison Graham

European Affairs Executive