The United States and the European Union are resuming trade talks on Monday. They'd been delayed by the government shutdown in Washington, but they've recently been overshadowed by the NSA spying allegations.
The discussions over the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) already included the sensitive subject of data protection, which became a lot more sensitive after reports emerged that the National Security Agency has been using wide ranging electronic surveillance to monitor European citizens and institutions.
Reportedly, this included hacking into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.
Germany in particular now feels betrayed by their most important ally.
In an interview with Germany’s main daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, former Vice-Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier sums up what many Germans think:
“The data hunger of the NSA seems to be boundless. The massive surveillance of innocent citizens and EU offices seemed bad enough, but until now we couldn’t even image that there would be spying on members of allied governments. We can’t just go back to business as usual now. “
Washington is getting at least a little bit nervous about the blowback from the spying allegations. After President Barack Obama assured Merkel that her cell phone is not currently being tapped by the US, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Europe not to let NSA surveillance concerns thwart the current trade talks between the EU and Washington.
Both sides hope the partnership will provide a significant stimulus to their job markets and economies — both sides clearly need that while their economies struggle with poor employment and sluggish growth in consumer spending.
But a wide-ranging trade deal requires good faith on all sides and distrust of the United States is growing in Germany. Steinmeier, for one, foresees great difficulties for the trade talks if there is no clarification of American surveillance methods in Europe.