Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

US spying casts shadow over talks

By Fraser Cameron (China Daily) Updated: 2013-11-13 08:20

This week a team of over 50 senior US officials is visiting Brussels for the second round of negotiations on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The talks were supposed to have taken place last month, but were postponed due the US government shutdown.

US spying casts shadow over talks

Now the two sides meet in the shadow of the US spying affair, with European leaders and citizens outraged at the extent of US bugging in Europe. This has led to a major public outcry, especially in Germany, which for historical reasons has very strong measures on data privacy. Chancellor Angela Merkel is still waiting for an apology from US President Barack Obama for the National Security Agency's tapping of her phone for over a decade.

The spying allegations dominated the summit meeting of European Union leaders two weeks ago when they were supposed to be discussing the economy. Following the spying disclosure, Germany and the EU sent delegations to Washington to express European indignation and concern about the NSA's activities. Elmar Brok, the chair of the foreign affairs committee in the European Parliament and a close ally of Merkel, spoke of "a severe breach of trust" in the transatlantic relationship. This, he said, would take time to repair. The EU has now called for a "no spying on friends" pact with the US but so far there has been no response from the American side which is carrying out its own enquiry into the extent of NSA activities.

How will the spying scandal impact on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks? The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and other politicians have called for a suspension of the negotiations arguing that there has been a complete break-down in trust between the EU and the US. But EU leaders including Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, have rejected these calls arguing that a successful TTIP is in the interests of both sides. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the newly appointed US ambassador to the EU, Tony Gardner, have also called for the spat over spying not to derail the talks.

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