U.S. to seek comprehensive ag access in EU trade talks

Flags in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. (Inakiantonana/E+/Getty Images)

Washington | Reuters — The United States on Friday signaled it would not bow to the European Union’s request to keep agriculture out of this year’s planned U.S.-EU trade talks, publishing negotiating objectives that seek comprehensive EU access for American farm products.

The objectives, required by Congress under the “fast-track” trade negotiating authority law, seek to reduce or eliminate EU tariffs on U.S. farm products and break down non-tariff barriers, including on products developed through biotechnology, the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office said.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington on Wednesday that the 28-country bloc could not negotiate on agriculture.

“We have made very clear agriculture will not be included,” Malmstrom told reporters after meeting Lighthizer, adding that the two sides had not yet agreed on the scope of the talks.

Europe has been seeking more limited negotiations to cut tariffs on industrial goods, including autos, since last July, when U.S. President Donald Trump and EU president Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to start negotiations.

Trump is considering levying tariffs on imported motor vehicles and auto parts of around 25 per cent on national security grounds, but has agreed to refrain from imposing such duties on European car imports while negotiations are underway.

He has long complained about Europe’s 10 per cent import tariff on autos. The U.S. passenger car tariff is only 2.5 per cent, although U.S. tariffs on pickup trucks and other commercial trucks are 25 per cent.

— Reporting for Reuters by David Lawder.

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