European Union members on Monday agreed to resume trade talks with the United States despite opposition from France, AFP indicated, quoting several European sources. Belgium abstained during Monday’s vote, which took place at a meeting in Brussels of the Council of European Agriculture Ministers. The ministers officially gave the European Commission a mandate to represent the 28 at talks with Washington.
At a press briefing in Brussels (15 April), trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström said that the previous transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) - on which talks were suspended two years ago - was obsolete and described the outcome of the new talks as a win-win situation. The mandate given to her is limited in scope and covers two potential agreements with the US.
The first one, a trade agreement, focusses strictly on industrial goods. The second one is on conformity assessment to make it easier for companies to prove that their products meet technical requirements on both sides of the Atlantic.
According to the Commission, an EU-US agreement on eliminating tariffs on industrial goods would increase EU exports to the U.S. by 8% and U.S. exports to the EU by 9% by 2033. This corresponds to additional gains of €27 billion and €26 billion in EU and U.S. exports respectively.
Malmström was optimistic about finalising the talks before the end of the mandate in 2019 of the current Juncker Commission but declined to present any lessons learned from the previous talks.The future agreement would exclude agriculture, services and public markets, at least as far as the Europeans are concerned. However, the Americans have repeatedly said they plan to include agriculture in the discussions. This disagreement will therefore have to be ironed out by the two parties.
The EU and the US have been trying for eight months now to achieve a ceasefire in their trade dispute by negotiating such an accord.
Donald Trump has put pressure on the Europeans by threatening on many occasions to tax their vehicles if negotiations failed to move forward. The EU now hopes to see these threats averted.