The German government said Monday that talks between the European Union and the United States on the free trade agreement known as TTIP would continue, contradicting comments from Chancellor Angela Merkel's deputy that they had "effectively failed."
"It is right to continue negotiating" the terms of the trade agreement despite the EU and Washington's "differing positions on important issues," government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Seibert's comments contradicted those of Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who said in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday that the talks had "effectively failed."
"The negotiations with the US have effectively failed because we must not capitulate to the American demands as Europeans," said Gabriel, who also acts as Merkel's deputy chancellor.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US would create the world's largest free trade area, with around 800 million people, but has been plagued by criticism on both sides of the Atlantic.
The European Commission, which is negotiating the deal on behalf of the EU's 28 member states, stressed Monday that it had been given a unanimous mandate back in 2013, which was renewed by EU leaders at their last summit in June.
"The ball is rolling," said commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, adding that the EU's executive was willing to conclude a deal by the end of the year, as long as it upholds EU standards on issues such as health and safety, social protections and cultural diversity.
TTIP negotiations have been ongoing for more than three years, with both sides aiming to reach the outlines of an agreement before 2017, when US President Barack Obama leaves office and both France and Germany gear up for elections.