The European Commission on Friday published its plan to negotiate a trade deal with the United States, an important step to avoid a tariff war between the two blocs. “This is not a traditional free trade agreement (…) it is a limited but important proposal on industrial tariffs,” said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström at a press conference in Brussels.
Contrary to Washington’s wish, Brussels reiterated its categorical refusal to include agriculture. “In this negotiating mandate, we are not proposing any reduction of tariffs in the agriculture sector, this sector has been set aside,” she added. France, in particular, is strongly opposed to this sector being included in the negotiations.
The European Commission is responsible for trade negotiations for all EU countries. The mandate it proposed Friday, however, must first be approved by EU member states before it begins discussions.
The EU and the United States have been working for months to bring about a trade agreement announced in late July by US President Donald Trump and the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. The meeting helped to remove Trump’s threat of higher tariffs on European cars sold in the United States.
But tensions persist: the US Department of Commerce is due to release a mid-February report examining the question of a possible threat to the US national security of the transatlantic car trade. Then Donald Trump will have 90 days to make a decision based on this report.