EU trade negotiator heads to Washington for talks

Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will try to persuade US to give up on slapping 25% tariffs on European auto imports

EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom

The EU's top trade negotiator Cecilia Malmstrom was headed to Washington on Monday to meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in an effort to breathe life into an attempt to strike a trade deal. During her visit Malmstrom will also take part in a US-EU-Japan meeting today. The three nations are due to discuss subsidies made to state-owned firms and forced technology transfers. China will be the main topic of these talks.

The mooted trade deal between the EU and the US came after US President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed in July to hold off on any new tariffs while negotiations are under way. Now officials in Brussels hope the talks will cajole Trump away for good from slapping 25 percent tariffs on European auto imports, that would mostly affect Germany and possibly spark a trade war.

A component of the truce between the EU and US was to boost European imports of soya from the US, a sensitive sector that has been decimated by Trump's trade war with China. As the European Commission announced on Monday, imports of US soya beans by the EU increased by 112 per cent over the current market year (July-December 2018), compared to the same period in the previous year. The Commission added that US soya bean imports were likely to rise further after the EU facilitated the use of US soya beans for biofuels in Europe.

The deal in July followed US tariffs on steel and aluminium from the EU and other partners, that went in effect a month earlier and are still unchanged. In that regard, the Commission last week also made definitive certain provisional "safeguard" measures put in place to protect Europe's steel industry from the knock-on effects of those tariffs.

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