EU Backs Start of Trans-Atlantic Trade Talks Amid Spying Furor

The European Commission said it won’t let the furor over alleged U.S. snooping on European diplomatic outposts get in the way of next week’s planned start of trans-Atlantic free-trade talks.

“While the beginning of EU-U.S. trade negotiation should not be affected, the EU side will make it clear that for such a comprehensive and ambitious negotiation to succeed, there needs to be confidence, transparency and clarity among the negotiating partners,” the commission said in a statement after it met today in Strasbourg, France.

French President Francois Hollande, already a skeptic of the market-opening initiative, yesterday led calls for the European Union to consider pushing back the negotiations following the espionage charges by Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.

France was countered by the U.K., northern European governments and the commission, which estimates that a jump in trans-Atlantic commerce could pump an annual 119 billion euros ($155 billion) into the crisis-hit European economy.

EU and U.S. officials are scheduled to start the talks on July 8 in Washington.

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