Europe wants to be ready to negotiate with Washington ‘ASAP’
Monday, 13 January 2020
Malmström and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer have been part of a working group to define a framework for possible trade negotiations. Credit: Belga
European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström announced on Thursday that her mandate to negotiate a trade agreement with the United States was “almost finalised,” which would open the way for formal talks.
Since the summer of 2018, Malmström and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer have been part of a working group to define a framework for possible trade negotiations. This was put in place following a tentative agreement on a trade deal which had been approved in July by US President Donald Trump and Head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.
“We are working on the final details of the mandate (of negotiations) which must, of course, be submitted to Member States,” she told AFP. “I do believe things can accelerate, even if it is still impossible to say how long it will take for the Council’s to decide,” she added, after a trip to Washington.
The European Commissioner, who also met with Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday and Thursday, thinks that there should be no particular opposition to this negotiating mandate since it will not include agriculture, an issue that is particularly sensitive for France.
“I see no objection because everyone understands that we need a positive agenda with the United States,” she said. “Negotiating an agreement on the lowering of customs duties on industrial goods is limited but important for both sides,” she further observed.
“From the European side, we are trying to be ready as soon as possible,” she added.
Malmström added that the EU is still prepared to include “vehicles and all types of vehicles” in the negotiations “if there is reciprocity.”