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EU-US negotiators trade jibes as trade talks falter

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Note: BRUSSELS - US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has thrown doubt on the future of trade talks with the EU, showing frust

BRUSSELS - US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has thrown doubt on the future of trade talks with the EU, showing frustration in a Wednesday briefing in Brussels over slow pace of his negotiations with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom a day earlier.


"Our purpose in the meeting was to stress the need for speed and for getting to near-term deliverables, including both tariff relief and standards," Ross said Wednesday. "This is not meant to be a five-year project. This is meant to be something that was to move quickly and in a cooperative fashion."


The two had met to discuss and formalize a July 25th agreement between US President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that temporarily halted a trade tariff on European automobiles similar to the one that Washington has already imposed on European steel and aluminum.


According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, auto-related trade currently makes up 10 percent of total EU-US trade, with the United States being the number one destination for cars built in the EU and accounting for 29.3 percent of the total EU export value.


Tension mounted on Wednesday when Malmstrom indicated Washington was dragging its feet on topics related to industrial trade and import duties.


Malmstrom told reporters Wednesday that "We have asked and said several times that we are prepared to start the scoping exercise on a limited agreement focused on industrial goods, on tariffs."


"So far the US has not shown any big interest there, so the ball is in their court," the European Trade Commissioner said, placing responsibility on Washington to find ways to create tariff relief for industrial goods.


"We have not started negotiating yet, but if this is the first step taken by the US we are happy to continue those discussions," she continued.


Wilbur Ross, responding to her statements, lashed out at Malmstrom, saying, "It's as though she was at a different meeting from the one that we attended."


"Our purpose in the meeting was to address the need for speed and for getting to near-term deliverables including both tariff relief and standards," Ross said.


Trump and Juncker agreed on July 25 in Washington to work toward the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers on industrial goods traded between the EU and the US, but according to the US Secretary of Commerce, the deal depends on continued progress.


"We really need tangible progress," Ross said, warning: "The president's patience is not unlimited."


His statement indicated that the currently suspended duties on European automotive imports could be implemented if trade talks did not advance in ways that suited President Trump.


"Discussing tariffs in the absence of discussing standards is a useless exercise," Ross said, characterizing his Tuesday meeting with Malmstrom on the state of EU-US trade relations. "Both are protectionist."

 
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