Obama and Merkel defend US-EU free trade agreement

Hanover, April 25 (IANS) US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended a free trade agreement under negotiations between the US and European Union on Sunday, saying the agreement will benefit the economy on both sides of the Atlantic.

In a joint press conference in the northern German city of Hanover, Obama said it is “indisputable” that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will make both the EU and US economy stronger and more competitive compared to other regions of the world.

“The United States and the European Union need to keep moving forward with the TTIP,” he said after holding talks with Merkel in his final visit to Germany as the US President.

“It is very helpful to allow our economy in Europe to grow, It’ s important for the German economy, it’s important for the European economy,” said Merkel, adding that both the EU and US have an interest to speed up negotiations which was launched in July 2013.

A new round of talks over the agreement is scheduled to start in the US next week. On Saturday, tens of thousands of people protested in Hanover streets against the agreement.

A recent survey found that public support for the agreement dropped sharply in both Germany and the US in recent years. Concerns of the opponents include declines in consumer and labour protection, environment standards as well as the secrecy of the negotiations.

Obama said differences between the two sides are narrowing and he’s confident that the agreement will be completed finally although he cannot anticipate that the deal will be ratified by the end of this year.

Obama to send 250 troops to Syria

Washington, April 25 (IANS) US President Barack Obama plans to announce the deployment of 250 additional troops for Syria to assist local armies in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

According to reports citing US government officials on Sunday, Obama recently authorised the deployment, which will increase the number of US military personnel operating within Syrian territory from 50 to about 300, EFE news reported.

The deployment will take place despite the president’s reluctance to send troops to Syria, amid rising pressure to act more in the fight against IS.

Obama agreed to further expand US military presence after being persuaded by his advisors that this measure would allow the Pentagon to expand recent advances in operations against the militant group.

It is expected that the US president will make the announcement in Hannover, Germany, where he is on an official visit.

The US is leading the international military coalition against IS in Iraq and Syria, where the militant group occupies large areas of the two countries and proclaimed an Islamic caliphate in June 2014.

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