European Commission: EU to begin trade talks with US soon as tariff threats escalate

Brussels:The European Union gave the green light to start trade negotiations with the US, as both economies seek to rebuild frayed relations a week after threatening each other with billions of dollars in new tariffs over a 14-year-old aviation dispute.

EU ministers on Monday authorized talks to eliminate tariffs on industrial goods, following through on a political accord reached in July between President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said she’s determined to seal an agreement by the beginning of September.

Negotiations will start amid escalating transatlantic tensions, with the US having accused the EU of not acting in good faith and delaying the start of talks. The EU sought the deal with the US president, in part to avoid levies Trump threatened on foreign automobiles and car parts. “We are ready to move onto the next phase of EU-US relations,” Malmstrom told reporters in Brussels on Monday, adding that she would reach out to her US counterpart immediately to set a date for talks.

Trump’s car-tariff warning, which would be based on the same national-security grounds used for controversial duties last year on foreign steel and aluminum, will weigh heavily on talks, with the EU bristling over the idea that it poses a threat to the US. “We aren’t enemies of the economy here, we aren’t threatening the economy here, we are the closest friends,” European Commissioner of economic affairs Pierre Moscovici said in an interview with Bloomberg last week.

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