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Business Standard | 1 March 2019
New EU-US trade talks next week in Washington
AFP - European Union trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is to meet her US counterpart Robert Lighthizer next Wednesday in Washington, an EU spokesman, as the two sides seek a limited trade deal amid renewed tensions.
They have been eyeing a limited deal has been since last July when European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and US President Donald Trump pledged no new tariffs following those on steel and aluminium.
The announcement allowed the two sides to reduce tensions at a time when Trump threatened to impose steep duties on European automobiles — a threat he has renewed in recent days.
"Commissioner Malmstrom will meet the United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, on March 6," said a spokesperson for the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.
The commission’s secretary general Martin Selmayr will meet the director of the US National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, on Thursday, the spokesperson said. The two sides will hold further meetings in the following days.
Trade tensions have resumed lately.
Trump threatened last month to go ahead with auto tariffs after his Commerce Department delivered a report that sources said found European car imports constitute a national security threat to the United States.
The EU promised a quick and effective response in the event of auto tariffs.
The European Commission is hoping to obtain a mandate this month from European member countries to begin negotiating a trade deal limited to industrial goods.
Despite pressure from Germany, which is worried about tariffs on its key auto industry, France is balking at opening negotiations at a time of anti-government protests.
European elections meanwhile are set for May 22 to May 26, with experts warning that eurosceptic populists could big make gains.
Paris is especially wary after the failure of talks on TTIP, a far more ambitious transatlantic trade plan, which stalled amid fears a deal with Washington would undermine EU food and health standards.
The Commission, which handles trade negotiations for the EU’s 28 member states, has proposed a mandate for a "limited" trade accord.
The talks in Washington will focus "on the next steps" towards implementing the July truce and "on the EU-US cooperation on WTO reform and level playing field issues," the Commission spokesperson said.
The Commission will brief the US on the "state of play of the adoption of the negotiating mandates for EU-US trade agreements on industrial goods," the spokesperson added.
"The Commission will also raise the EU’s concerns on the tariffs imposed by the US on steel and aluminium products and on the possible consequences of the recently concluded investigation on whether automobile imports represent a threat to the US’ national security.