The US President enraged Brussels when he described the EU as “brutal trading partners” in a tweet offering support to Britain at Wednesday night’s Brexit summit. And the French president fears talks will revive a politically difficult trade debate in his country which plagued previous negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). France’s opposition to the trade talks is unlikely to affect the planned formal adoption of EU negotiating mandates on Monday.
But Mr Macron has indicated he will stick to his principles and intends will instruct his ministers to also abide by them.
A French official said: “In accordance with the commitment of the president of the Republic, France is opposed to the initiation of any trade negotiations with countries outside the Paris Climate Agreement.
France’s stance is at odds with Germany’s position and could lead to more friction between Paris and Berlin after splits appeared over the Brexit extension.
Commission presidential hopeful Manfred Weber tweeted: “I warmly welcome steps taken today that pave the way to open trade negotiations with the United States.
“Trade deals create millions of jobs and stabilise the world economy. I‘m ready for a far reaching trade agreement with the US.”
And popular opposition in France to TTIP will risk inflaming protests in France with Mr Macron already battling yellow vest protests throughout 2019.
Brussels wanted to avoid controversy by keeping any new trade deal simple but officials admit they are unsure of how to handle the unpredictable US President, who warned things “are about to change” in his controversial tweet attacking the EU”s treatment of the UK.
US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland warned Washington would fight “unfair barriers” against American companies.
He said: “I think if we woke up five years from now, the level of non-tariff barriers and the deficit will be so insurmountable. It would be so difficult for US companies to compete in Europe.”
Mr Sondland also rejected criticisms of America’s green credentials.
He said despite leaving the Paris accord, the US was aggressively pursuing a renewable energy policy.
He said: “The US is not hung up on the process — what we are hung up on is the result.
“What we don’t want is to enter in an agreement that artificially constrains us to spending money in places where we don’t think it’s effective.”