Would-be German Chancellor threatens US trade agreement

GERMANY’S most prominent opposition politician lashed out at the US over the weekend, threatening to stall negotiations for a major trade agreement over allegations of spying.

Peer Steinbruck, who is Angela Merkel’s main opponent in September’s election, suggested that he would stall EU negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US until the role of the National Security Agency (NSA) in intercepting communications was clarified further.

The social democrat candidate, who was also finance minister of Germany under Angela Merkel between 2005 and 2009, said: “I would interrupt negotiations until the Americans say if German government offices and European institutions are bugged”.

The Centre for Economic Policy Research has suggested that the trade agreement could yield a £4-10bn increase in the UK’s national income, and as much as a 2.9 per cent increase in aggregate exports by 2027.

Steinbruck’s comments followed an extensive report by Der Spiegel, a prominent weekly magazine suggesting that the NSA had intercepted communications from the New York headquarters of the United Nations.

The talks, which were launched earlier this year, would be the biggest trade agreement in history if passed. In July, the French government also proposed halting the talks over the NSA revelations in July.

Most polls continue to suggest that Angela Merkel will emerge from the election in late September with the highest proportion of votes from the German public, but that her party will have to form another coalition government.