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Thursday 17 January 2019

EU trade commissioner says talks with US will not include agriculture

Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union’s Trade Commissioner. Photo: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg
Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union’s Trade Commissioner. Photo: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

Chris Prentice

The European Union and United States have not yet agreed on the scope of their trade negotiations, but the EU will not include agriculture in the talks, its trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström told reporters on Wednesday.

Malmström said the EU was willing to include all industrial goods, such as autos, in the discussions.

“We have made very clear agriculture will not be included,” Malmström said, though the two sides had not yet agreed on that issue.

She was speaking after meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and ahead of a meeting with U.S. and Japanese leaders to discuss World Trade Organization (WTO) reform this week.

U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded better terms of trade for the United States from China, the EU and Japan, saying poor trade deals cost the United States millions of jobs. Washington has already reworked the North American trade treaty with neighbors Mexico and Canada.

USTR notified lawmakers in October of its plans to pursue the trade talks with the European Union. American farmers and farm state lawmakers such as Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa have said they want agricultural products to be included in any new trade deal.

Malmström said she had received no assurance that a U.S. auto tariffs report would be put on hold during the discussions, but believed the European Union would not be affected by such tariffs while the talks were ongoing.

The EU was in the final stages of preparing its mandates for the talks, she said.

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It was unclear when the formal talks will be held.

Discussions around the reform of WTO rules have focused on transparency and ways to address concerns over Chinese trade practices.

“We are not forming a coalition against China. We are worried about many of the Chinese practices,” she said.

Reuters

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