Just when all seemed well after the G8 summit and the horizon was full of opportunities for cooperation between the United States and Europe, a recent news development brought talks about the U.S.-EU trade deal to a standstill. The trade pact, valued at hundreds of billions of dollars, might never be implemented because the U.S. has — once again — crossed the lines when it comes to transparency.
A recent leak from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. not only spies on its own citizens, but also on its allies. Snowden claims that the U.S. spies on Germany just as much as China or Iraq, an allegation which could be fatal to the trade agreement if proven true. According to the report Snowden released, the U.S. has (for quite a while) been infiltrating telephone and email networks of EU officials by planting bugs into encrypted communication equipment.
The allegations were met with much criticism by the European Union leadership, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said that the United States’ approach was “unacceptable Cold War-style behavior”. Other EU officials believe that the U.S. has already gained an unfair advantage when it comes to the trade deal negotiations, as it would have known classified information beforehand.
And while the U.S. is looking for more criminal charges against Snowden, Green Parties in France and Germany are calling on their respective governments to offer the whistleblower asylum. Regardless of the fate of Snowden, it looks like the transatlantic relationship between the U.S. and the EU may be irreversibly marked with distrust.
Now the United States is on a tightrope walk with its allies, and it seems as if the friendly talks scheduled on July 8 for the EU-U.S. trade pact will take a different course than expected. One thing is for sure: along with free trade, transparency will top the agenda.