US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross cancelled a meeting with member states’ permanent representatives on Thursday (13 September) to discuss EU-US trade talks as he returned back to the US due to hurricane Florence.
Half a dozen member states had requested a meeting with Ross, who visited Greece earlier this week.
Given the interest of national governments, the Austrian rotating presidency of the EU decided to schedule a meeting with him on Thursday morning, European diplomats said.
But an official told EURACTIV.com that he cancelled last minute as he moved forward his return to the US because of Hurricane Florence.
Ross was expected to discuss the ongoing EU-US trade talks aimed at addressing the Transatlantic dispute.
In July, European Commission chief and US President Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Trump, agreed on reducing tariffs and non-tariffs barriers on goods, following a bitter dispute between the US and Europe on trade relations.
The first political meeting took place early this week. Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström agreed with US trade envoy Robert Lighthizer to reach early results on harmonisation of standards by November.
European diplomats said that reducing these non-tariff barriers would not require the green-light by member states, as both sides would voluntarily agree on using identical technical standards.
Some governments, especially France, were wary of negotiating with Trump while his tariffs on European steel and aluminium exports, seen as “unjustified”, remain in place.
These tariffs are expected to remain in place at least until mid-2019, an official told Bloomberg.
The Commission, meanwhile, is ready to engage in the talks even if Trump maintains the tariffs on European metals.
Commission officials highlighted that the bilateral dialogue temporarily postponed fresh duties on European car-makers, as it would represent a significant escalation in the trade dispute.
“The important thing is the narrative of de-escalation and the constructive dialogue with Trump,” an European official said.
In an interview with various European newspapers, Juncker said that Trump was honouring his promises.
Juncker and Trump don’t want a 1000-page long trade deal, and both are seeking “quick wins”, European officials said. But sources did not exclude a proper trade deal between the two sides down the road.