April 24, 2016 | By: MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG
BERLIN — U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday he was “confident” that an agreement on a sweeping but controversial trade deal with the EU could be reached by the end of this year, as Washington and Berlin redoubled efforts to cinch the pact before he leaves office.
“I am confident that we’re going to be able to get this done,” Obama said in a news conference in Hanover with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I don’t anticipate that we will complete ratification by the end of the year, but I do anticipate that we can have completed the agreement.”
The president’s reference to “ratification” suggests he will punt the final decision to his successor and the new Congress after he leaves office. Given the growing skepticism about free trade deals on both sides of the Atlantic, Obama’s latest endorsement of TTIP, as the transatlantic trade pact is known, is far from a guarantee that it will ever be completed. Obama acknowledged those challenges in his opening address to the Hanover Trade Fair.
“Time is not on our side,” he told an audience of senior German politicians and industry chiefs. “If we don’t make progress this year, then upcoming political transitions in the United States and Europe will [result] in this agreement not being finished for quite some time.”
A day before Obama’s arrival in Hanover, an industrial hub in western Germany, tens of thousands of TTIP opponents took to the streets to protest the deal. Those against the deal argue it would dilute European standards on everything from food to jurisprudence. About one-third of Germans say they are against the trade pact.
Though TTIP is little known in the U.S., free trade has become a hot-button issue in the presidential campaign as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have blamed past agreements for the loss of industrial jobs in America.
Acknowledging that the benefits of free trade “are often diffuse,” Obama used his speech to counter the arguments of TTIP opponents on both sides of the Atlantic.
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