STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden is working with a group of other EU states to keep trade talks with the United States alive, though shifts in the political climate mean the negotiations may have to be paused, the EU minister in Stockholm said.
French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said last week he favored calling a halt to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, while German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel called them "de facto dead".
"These statements are very unfortunate," Sweden's EU Minister Ann Linde said on Monday, adding that, while the negotiations were tough, progress was being made.
Both Washington and Brussels, which have been negotiating for three years, are still officially committed to signing TTIP before year-end, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel backs the talks.
Linde said Sweden was working with Finland, Spain and Italy to keep the negotiations alive.
But looming elections in the United States, France and Germany, along with Britain's decision in June to leave the European Union could put negotiations on ice for the foreseeable future.
That is a worry for Sweden, many of whose biggest firms, including Volvo <VOLVb.ST> and Ericsson <ERICb.ST>, derive the bulk of their earnings from exports.
"We'll have to see if the political conditions have changed so much that we need to take a break," she said.
"If we don't get a deal now, it will take a while before the negotiations could get anywhere again."
(This version of the story has been corrected to remove Netherlands from group of countries in fifth para after government spokesperson clarification.)
(Reporting by Johan Sennero; Editing by Simon Johnson and John Stonestreet)