US envoy says US-EU trade deal still alive

A container ship is moored up in Liverpool, north-west England (AFP Photo/PAUL ELLIS)

Brussels (AFP) - Negotiations for a mega US-EU trade deal are still alive after they were suspended over elections and public opposition on both sides of the Atlantic, a senior US diplomat said Tuesday.

EU officials had feared US President Donald Trump would abandon the four-year talks for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) after he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"I would really take issue with the notion that the TTIP is dead," said Adam Shub, who is running the US mission to the European Union pending Trump's appointment of a new ambassador.

"We are reviewing it. You know the president's position on TPP, but TTIP is not in that category," Shub told the foreign affairs committee in the European parliament.

Most Europeans had assumed that Trump would kill the TTIP deal in the same way he quashed the similar TPP accord with Asia just days after taking office in January.

Tuesday's surprise twist came after the Trump administration ruffled feathers at G20 talks over the weekend by refusing to condemn protectionism in a final statement.

Talks with the EU were put on the "backburner" or "freezer" because of elections on both sides of the Atlantic, Shub said.

"I think it was our perception that, due to the difficulty with the upcoming German election, the Netherlands election, … the French election, this was not the best climate to continue a trade negotiation that was perceived in many parts of the public as something very, very different," he added.

"One has to be an optimist," Shub added.

Shub said a clearer position would emerge once the Trump administration appoints a new trade representative to replace Michael Froman, who served under President Barack Obama.

Brussels and Washington had sought to get the TTIP deal through by the time Obama left office but fell short.