EU-US expect early results in trade talks to ease tensions

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer with EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström, during a meeting at the European Commission last year. [European Commission]

The EU and US will ratchet up their contacts in the coming weeks in order to improve cooperation on trade and head off risks of an escalation in the ongoing dispute.

EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström met on Monday (10 September) with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer in Brussels.

They discussed the implementation of the agreement reached by the presidents of the Commission and the US, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Trump, last July.

US officials said that the meeting was “constructive” and expected to settle on some tangible results in November.

“Specifically, we hope for an early harvest in the area of technical barriers to trade,” the office of the US representative said.

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French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday (26 July) he viewed talks between US President Donald Trump and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker as “useful”, but he was “not in favour” of a “vast new trade deal” between the European Union and the United States.

“We discussed how to move forward and identify priorities on both sides, and how to achieve concrete results in the short to medium term,” Malmström wrote on Twitter.

But she insisted that a lot of work remains to be done this autumn before getting those results.

Malmström and Lighthizer will meet again at the end of this month, while their teams will hold further discussions in October to identify tariff and non-tariff barriers and ways to reduce them.

Another meeting between the two will take place in November to finalise some results.

The US added that both sides should launch their procedures in order to reach negotiating mandates.

Lighthizer will begin consultations with Congress to start negotiations with Europe on “long-term outcomes”, his office confirmed.

On this side of the Pond, the Commission will have to request a negotiating mandate from the EU Council once the scoping exercise is concluded and both sides agree on which tariffs and barriers should be erased.

EU offers trade talks to Trump despite steel and olive tariffs

The EU and US will stick with trade talks even if Donald Trump decides to maintain tariffs on steel and aluminium after promising European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker a reassessment.

But as trade talks continue, the US camp has not given an indication yet on whether they will agree to remove tariffs on European steel and aluminium, as well as Spanish black olives, seen as unjustified by the European side.

A majority of voices on this side of the Atlantic were against launching negotiations while these duties remained in place but the Commission opened talks in order to avoid fresh escalation after Trump’s announced tariffs on European cars.

It is “a very good sign” that both sides are engaged in a trade dialogue, said Commission chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas on Monday.

He added that the EU and the US are engaged “constructively” in the talks.

But despite hopes to achieve some results this autumn, the Europeans are aware of the “profound differences” with the current US Administration on trade, as Malmström admitted recently.

EU willing to agree on zero car tariffs with Trump

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström confirmed on Thursday that the EU would be willing to reach a “reciprocal” agreement with the US to scrap car tariffs as part of a new deal, but she added that both sides still have “profound disagreements” on trade.

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