BERLIN — It has been a bad week for one of President Barack Obama's signature trade goals.
And for once, it's not widespread resistance to the Trans-Pacific Partnership that is giving the White House headaches. This time, the political pressures are centered on the proposed agreement to loosen regulatory burdens between the European Union and the United States.
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said repeatedly over the last week that talks over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have failed because U.S. negotiators refused to compromise. French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that the current round of talks should be ended.
Those comments come despite Brussels' and Washington's official commitment to seal the deal before Obama leaves office in January.
"If the Americans don't move towards the Europeans, then Europe can't agree to a 'TTIP light.' And with this, the project — at least how it was all planned for this year — has failed," Gabriel said in a Tuesday news conference, according to Reuters.
Although the proposed free trade deal is still under negotiation, it aims to be roughly analogous to the Asia-focused TPP. The latter deal has surfaced again and again in the U.S. presidential election with supporters of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump railing against the proposed pact. But TTIP is relatively little-known to Americans.
In Europe, however, the TTIP is the topic of a lot of discussion, and it has elicited opposition from millions of people: About 3.5 million Europeans have signed onto a citizens' initiative calling on the European Union and its member states to cease trade negotiations with the U.S. and on a similar deal with Canada.
And while Gabriel blamed the stalled deal on American recalcitrance, popular resistance to TTIP has been based on wide-ranging objections to the proposed agreement.
The website for the anti-TTIP initiative lists nine separate arguments against the deal, but an overarching concern is that large multinational corporations will benefit from a deal while regular citizens suffer.