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EU backs start of trade talks with US

The European Union can now begin trade negotiations with the United States after its member states on Monday voted by a clear majority to approve the negotiating mandates put forward by the European Commission.

The EU currently has a tense trade relationship with Washington, with Donald Trump threatening to levy tariffs on car imports and other European products.

Green light for trade talks

  • The EU’s 28 member states, which had struggled for months to agree on negotiating mandates for the trans-Atlantic trade negotiations, gave final clearance to start formal talks with Washington.
  • France, who has tried to push trade talks until after EU elections, voted against the mandate, while Belgium abstained from the vote.
  • The European Commission’s negotiating mandates include cutting tariffs on industrial goods and to make it simpler for companies to show products meet EU and US standards.

Limited trade deal: In July of last year, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and US President Trump agreed to pursue a limited trade deal. Trump has since accused the EU of dragging its feet and has threatened to impose tariffs on auto imports, though Juncker insisted in February that the US president gave his “word” that he would not. The Commission put forward its negotiating mandates in January, but the EU’s executive body needed the backing of member states to begin talks with Washington.

Read more: German car industry warns US over auto tariffs

Airbus-Boeing dispute: Last week, Trump ratcheted up his trade threats, saying the US would levy new tariffs worth €11 billion ($12.5 billion) over EU subsidies for Airbus. The EU reportedly intends to counter that tariff hike with a €20 billion one of their own. The US and EU have accused each other of illegally subsidizing their respective aviation giants, Boeing and Airbus, for more than a decade.

Resistance from France: Concerned about domestic blowback from the trade negotiations, France had led the charge against the opening of trade discussions with the US. It had sought to push the issue beyond EU parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 23-26, claiming that dealing with Trump could impact the vote. French President Emmanuel Macron has also insisted the US first sign back with the Paris climate accord, a pact from which Trump withdrew the US in 2017. 

dv/rt (Reuters, AFP)

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Article source: https://www.dw.com/en/eu-backs-start-of-trade-talks-with-us/a-48327245?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf