France threatens ‘no’ to US-EU trade zone, amid new tensions
People read documents on the Trans-Atlantic talks to create a massive free trade zone between the United States and the European Union in a 'TTIP reading room' set up by Greenpeace in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, Monday, May 2, 2016. Greenpeace released confidential negotiating texts that the environmental group claims shows U.S. ill intent. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop)
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PARIS: France is threatening to reject a huge free trade deal between the U.S. and the European Union, saying it’s too friendly to U.S. business and probably doomed.

Signs of trouble are dogging the creation of a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a U.S.-EU free trade zone encompassing half the world economy.

President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that France “will never accept” challenges to its farming and culture in exchange for better access to U.S. markets.

“That’s why at this stage, France says no,” the Socialist leader said at a conference on left-wing politics.

Earlier Tuesday, French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl told Europe-1 radio that negotiations “are totally blocked” and that a halt to talks “is the most probable option.” He insisted on better farming and environmental protections, adding that “in its current state, France cannot sign it.”

“Europe is giving a lot … but receiving very little in return,” he said.

European officials appear to be toughening their rhetoric after Greenpeace leaked large amounts of confidential negotiating documents that suggest the EU is coming under U.S. pressure to weaken consumer protections in key sectors.

The EU chief negotiator said several Greenpeace conclusions were “false” while U.S. Trade representative spokesman Trevor Kincaid said the interpretations were misleading and sometimes wrong.

Still, EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero said Monday that major disagreements remain between the two sides following the 13th round of talks last week. The U.S. election campaign is complicating negotiations, making it increasingly unlikely that President Barack Obama can achieve a deal before leaving office.

France and some other European countries with rich culinary and farming traditions are particularly concerned about U.S. policies that give greater freedom to trade in genetically modified food, chlorine-rinsed poultry and hormone-treated beef.

France is also protective of subsidies to its film industry, fearing eventual domination by deep-pocketed Hollywood.

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