EU sets out plans for ‘limited’ US trade deal
BRUSSELS: The EU on Friday published its negotiating plans for a free trade deal with the United States, part of an effort to avert a trade war with US President Donald Trump.
Negotiating a trade deal was included in a transatlantic truce secured last year after the US slapped tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from the EU, alarming the world.
The effort is also part of an effort to stop Trump from slapping tariffs on European car imports, a danger that has especially unnerved export powerhouse Germany.
“It is not a traditional (trade deal)… it is a limited but important proposal engaged on industrial goods tariffs only,” EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told reporters.
The process however has got off to a rocky start, with the US side last week including agricultural products in their plans, which is an absolute no-go for the Europeans.
“In this mandate, we are not proposing any reduction of tariffs on agriculture. That area was left outside,” Malmstrom insisted.
The 17-page mandate submitted by the US also included other demands and charges that are unacceptable for the EU, including that Europe stop manipulating foreign exchange rates.
Given the split, the EU is entering the negotiations with trepidation, especially since the threat of auto duties is still very much alive in Washington.
The commission handles trade negotiations for the EU’s 28 member states and the plans must now be approved by the national governments before negotiations actually start with Washington.
Brussels and member states are wary after the failure of the so-called TTIP talks, a far more ambitious transatlantic trade plan which stalled amid fears a deal with Washington would undermine EU food and health standards.
Opposition by activists has already resurfaced with Friends of the Earth Europe warning that “there can be no trade-offs on food standards” in the deal.
EU governments were shell-shocked last year when Trump imposed tariffs on metals imports as part of his “America First” protectionist vision.
Brussels responded by slapping counter-tariffs on more than $3 billion in US exports like bourbon, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
But Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in July called a truce, agreeing that as both sides pursued a trade deal, neither would impose additional tariffs.