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Brexit doubts won't slow US-EU trade talks: negotiators

[BRUSSELS] The United States and the European Union said they were forging ahead with trade talks on Friday despite the shock setback of Brexit and rising opposition to the deal in France and Germany.

Negotiators met this week in Brussels for the 14th round of negotiations on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that would create the world's largest free trade area.

US chief negotiator Dan Mullaney said that Britain's decision to split from the EU raised questions around the deal as Britain represents 25 per cent of US exports to the EU.

"The economic and strategic rationales remain strong, but at the same time a withdrawal of the UK from the EU market would affect the value of the EU market," Mr Mullaney said in Brussels.

"The UK is also our largest market globally for services," he added, referring in large part to the huge presence by US firms in the UK's City of London financial hub.

The EU's chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero agreed.

"The decision by the British people in no way delays our determination," said Mr Bercero. "We are now in an advanced stage of negotiations, but of course a lot of work needs to be done." Both negotiators maintained that the objective was to complete the talks by the close of the Obama administration at the end of the year.

But top diplomats in the EU believe that a suspension of talks until after major elections in the US, France and Germany will be required, though refuse to say so publicly.

Mr Mullaney strongly warned against a suspension of talks.

"It could be quite a while before you could pick up negotiations again," he said.

Mr Mullaney's comments reiterated doubts raised Thursday by the top US trade official.

Britain "is a very significant part of what makes TTIP attractive," said US Trade Representative Michael Froman on Thursday in Washington.

"You have just taken the fifth largest economy in the world... out of the equation," Mr Froman said.

This added to the increasing headwinds in major EU powers Germany and France, where negative attitudes to globalisation are on the rise.

The five days of meetings were often met by anti-globalisation trade activists who protested outside the negotiation venue in central Brussels, drawing a heavy police presence.

Activists have opposed TTIP since negotiations began in 2013, believing it will only benefit multinationals and harm consumers.


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