Bloomberg | 22 May 2019
EU says US, focusing on China, not ready for trade talks
By William Horobin
The U.S., which is embroiled in a tariff war with China while juggling negotiations with nations including Japan, Mexico and Canada, may not be prepared to start talks with the European Union on a proposed trade deal.
“We are ready from the EU side to start and we have the mandate,” Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU’s chief trade negotiator, told reporters in Paris on Wednesday. “But I don’t think the U.S. is ready to start on the tariff negotiations.”
European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom Interview
Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg
Malmstrom said she met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer earlier on Wednesday, which was the first time the two had seen each other in person since EU member states gave the European Commission the green light to begin negotiations more than a month ago. Separately, Malmstrom said that U.S. discussions with China is “their main focus.”
President Donald Trump and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reached a political agreement in July that set out the framework for an accord that would slash industrial tariffs between the two regions and suspend a U.S. threat to impose tariffs on European automobile exports. Even though Trump last week decided not to hit the EU with new duties on cars, he did say that European autos represent a national-security threat, and that imports may have to be reduced artificially.
Malmstrom said that if talks do begin soon, she hopes a deal could be struck during this commission’s term, which wraps up at the end of October.
Malmstrom rejected the notion of acquiescing to so-called voluntary export restraints, also referred to as managed trade, since the practice doesn’t conform with World Trade Organization rules.
“While we appreciated of course that there were no tariffs on cars that day, we still disagree fundamentally with the notion that European cars and car parts are a security threat,” Malmstrom said. “We’re not going to engage in managed trade.”