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Transatlantic trade talks claim progress, see deal this year

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Negotiators on the ambitious TTIP transatlantic trade pact said they had made significant progress in New York this week and hope for a deal in 2016, despite popular opposition on both sides.

[NEW YORK] Negotiators on the ambitious TTIP transatlantic trade pact said they had made significant progress in New York this week and hope for a deal in 2016, despite popular opposition on both sides.

Both sides said they would not be deterred by increased attacks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and did not plan to water it down despite vocal objections from politicians and the public on both sides.

"The United States has no interest in a 'TTIP light' that would not fulfil the economic promise of the ambitious agreement that we're seeking," said Dan Mullaney, the US Trade Representative's front man in the talks.

"A TTIP light ... is not workable for the US or for the Europeans," said Ignacio Garcia Bercero, the lead negotiator for the European Commission's Directorate General for Trade.

US and EU negotiators told journalists that there were still significant sticking points. While 97 per cent of tariff issues had been covered, three per cent - the most challenging, including for farm products, remained and could be some of the last things to deal with.

Other key challenges are on the opening of the EU services sector and better European access to US government procurement projects.

"Quite substantial work is still ahead of us," said Garcia Bercero.

After nearly three years of talks, he said progress on access to US government procurement lags other issues, suggesting that Washington needs to make more concessions on allowing European firms to compete equally in contracts from US public authorities.

The US meanwhile wants to see Europe's services sector opened wider to American companies.

Both sides said they need to open those doors wider rather than leaving the most politically difficult issues untouched.

"We shouldn't reserve significant amounts of space to discriminate against each other," said Mr Mullaney.

They also downplayed the affect on their negotiations of critics of free trade deals, including from the US politicians now battling to succeed President Barack Obama; and from the looming referendum in Britain on Brexit, withdrawal from the European Union by a key trading power.

"This is not an issue which is impacting our negotiations," Garcia Bercero said of Brexit.

"There is a lot of anxiety about globalisation both in Europe and in the United States, and one certainly needs to understand those concerns," he added.

"Trade agreements... are instruments to better manage globalization."

"TTIP gives the United States and European Union the opportunity to write the rules of trade in a way that reflects important values that we share: rules of law, transparency, standards for protecting the environment, workers and consumers," said Mr Mullaney.

AFP