Striking a far-reaching trade deal between the European Union and the United States is more important than ever following the UK's vote for Brexit, the US secretary of state John Kerry said today.
In a jam-packed meeting with top EU officials, where recent events in Turkey and Nice dominated the agenda, Kerry reiterated US support for an ambitious trade agreement, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), hitting back against its critics who believe it is either bad for Europe or will never get off the ground.
"With respect to whatever impact Brexit may or may not have, TTIP becomes more important, because it is a large market," Kerry said today during his visit to Brussels.
"When you're talking about a large marketplace between the US and Europe, that has a very significant ability to act as a counterweight to whatever negatives may or may not attach themselves to whatever construct is negotiated between the UK and Europe".
Some populist and left-wing figures across the EU have called for TTIP to be abandoned in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the EU. Tiziana Beghin, an Italian MEP from the 5 Star Movement - the anti-establishment, anti-EU party founded by Italian comedian Beppe Grillo - told City A.M. the EU should use the Brexit vote to review every single trade agreement it currently has in place.
Kerry, however, attacked those who failed to recognise what he sees as the benefits of the deal.
He said: "I know there have been a couple of comments ... suggesting somehow that TTIP will not or cannot proceed.
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"We frankly ... disagree, because we believe there is some mythology that has been attached to it. The facts are TTIP actually works for the people of Europe. It will create jobs and protect their interests."
An EU-US trade deal has been formally on the cards since 2011. The 14th round of formal negotiations has just concluded and both sides hope to have an agreement ready to be put to EU member states by the end of the year.
If the deal is signed off before the UK formally exits the EU, experts suggested it could be easier for the UK to replicate the same agreement with the US once it leaves the bloc, rather than have to negotiate a new deal from scratch.