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EU clears way for start of formal trade talks with U.S.

Christian Fernsby |
European Union countries gave initial clearance on Thursday to start formal trade talks with the United States, EU sources said, a move designed but not guaranteed to smooth strained relations between the world’s two largest economies, Reuters reported.

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The European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 28 member European Union, has sought clearance for two negotiating mandates — one to cut tariffs on industrial goods, the other to make it easier for companies to show products meet EU or U.S. standards.

The Commission presented its mandates in January and found support from most EU members. France resisted, however, insisting that agriculture should not feature in the talks but that climate change provisions should — a difficult demand given U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

The European Union and the United States reached a detente last July when Trump agreed to hold off from imposing punitive tariffs on EU cars as the two sides sought to improve economic ties.

France will vote against the opening of trade negotiations between the European Union and United States given the repeated trade threats from Washington and its decision to quit the Paris climate accord, an Elysee official said on Thursday.

“France does not want a trade war or tension with the United States”, the source said, adding that it was likely only France would oppose opening the talks.

The French move does not block opening of the trade negotiations because the necessary majority of EU member states backs it.

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