francuska  Francois Hollande.jpg
Photograph: EPA/MICHEL EULER / POOL MAXPPP OUT

French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that his country at this stage "says no" to a free trade deal between the United States and the European Union that is being negotiated behind closed doors.

"We will never accept the questioning of our essential principles. That is why, at this stage, France says no," Hollande said during a public address in Paris, according to the Elysee.

France does not believe in trade without rules, Hollande added.

The French leader had previously voiced concerns over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), but his comments were the first made publicly after environmental group Greenpeace leaked documents on Monday showing the current state of the trade deal negotiations, which have been largely kept secret.

The 248 pages of documents show that Washington threatened to block efforts to facilitate exports of European cars if Europe does not agree to allow the sale of more US agricultural products.

European officials swiftly denied that consumer protections would be watered down, and the US trade representative called the leaks "misleading."

Greenpeace's EU director said the French government was right to voice criticism. "Hollande's concern is unsurprising, given that the [European] Commission is clearly not following the mandate it was given by EU countries to protect European environmental and health standards," Jorgo Riss said.

"Even those who were broadly in favour of an agreement are having second thoughts now that the evidence is out in the open," Riss added.

Earlier Tuesday, France's minister of state for trade blasted the trade deal, saying a halt to the talks was "the most likely option."

Matthias Fekl, in an interview on Europe 1 radio, said that in its current state, France would not sign the trade deal, underlining concerns over environmental provisions and consumer protections that have plagued the talks since they began.

"It makes no sense to have held the COP21 in Paris in December - this superb agreement for the environment - and then, just a few months later sign an accord that will unravel it," Fekl said Tuesday. Nearly 200 nations agreed at the UN COP21 conference on the steps for mitigating climate change.

"Commerce is not an end in itself," Fekl added. "Commerce is a tool that should be used in the service of other ends, namely the preservation of the environment."

Fekl also decried the unwillingness of the United States to negotiate on key points, saying that the Greenpeace leak confirmed his long-held suspicions about the talks. He added that the negotiations are currently "totally blocked."

If finalized, TTIP would create the world's largest free trade area with 800 million people.

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