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US, EU to push on with trade deal despite Brexit

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WASHINGTON: The United States and the European Union on Monday both stressed a willingness to clinch a trade deal this year, despite Britain’s shock vote to exit the 28-nation bloc.

The comments from the top trade negotiators for each side came on the eve of talks in Washington on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would create the world’s largest free trade and investment area.

“Our goal remains to continue working with the EU to conclude an ambitious, comprehensive and high-standard agreement this year,” said US Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Froman is scheduled to meet Tuesday with EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.

Malmstroem said she was traveling to the US capital “in order to advance further in these negotiations.”

“In this unprecedented situation, let me stress that we are clear and united in our response with regard to EU trade policy… Our negotiations with key partners will continue,” Malmstroem said in a statement.

Froman said the US government was evaluating the effect of Brexit on the TTIP talks, launched in July 2013.

“The economic and strategic rationale for TTIP remains strong,” he said, reiterating a remark he made Friday after the shock announcement that Britain had voted to exit the EU.

Washington and Brussels want the TTIP completed this year before US President Barack Obama leaves office.

But it has faced mounting opposition in parts of Europe, especially in France and Germany, where critics say the talks have been conducted in secret and fear a negative impact on agriculture and the environment.

On Sunday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls blasted the planned US-EU deal.

“No free trade agreement should be concluded if it does not respect EU interests. Europe should be firm,” Valls told members of France’s governing Socialist Party, adding: “France will be vigilant about this.”

“I can tell you frankly, there cannot be a transatlantic treaty agreement. This agreement is not on track,” Valls said.

Froman on Monday offered a diplomatic view of the situation.

“The Europeans have had a lot on their plate — the Brexit vote, the migrant crisis, the rise of skepticism about Brussels and other difficult issues,” he said at a conference in Washington.

“We sympathize and we hope they can summon the needed focus and political will to get this done.”

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