EU clears hurdle for U.S. trade talks but kickoff still far away
By Adam Behsudi, POLITICO
With help from Sabrina Rodriguez, Megan Cassella and Liz Crampton
European nations have agreed in principle to negotiating directives for a trade deal between the European Union and U.S., but it’s still unclear if the talks will get off the ground as the two sides remain deadlocked over the scope of any agreement. The U.S. wants to use the deal to crack open the EU’s agriculture market, which is something Brussels said has never been on the table.
Thursday’s action at least clears a procedural hurdle in the EU, where internal debate had kept the 28-nation bloc from agreeing on how to direct the European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of member states, to proceed with the talks. France had raised objections until the last moment, fearing the talks could revive a politically toxic trade debate ahead of next month’s European Parliament election.
"We may be ready to launch negotiations, but it's difficult to see how we can find a common ground," said Bernd Lange, chairman of the European Parliament’s trade committee. POLITICO Europe’s Hans von der Burchard has more here.
A ‘brutal’ trading partner: U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland warned on Thursday that the U.S. will aggressively combat what it views as unfair trade barriers leveled against U.S. companies. "I think if we woke up five years from now, the level of non-tariff barriers and the deficit will be so insurmountable," Sondland said at a POLITICO Europe event in Brussels. "It would be so difficult for U.S. companies to compete in Europe."
His comments come just hours after President Donald Trump tweeted that the EU is "a brutal trading partner with the United States, which will change.”
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