Elusive & Unlikely: Slow Progress on Quick EU-US Trade Deal

Written by | Thursday, October 18th, 2018

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently said the Trump administration was looking for fast progress in the trade talks with the European Union but the current pace was not satisfactory. “We really need tangible progress, our president’s patience is not unlimited,” Mr. Ross said in Brussels, a day after he had met European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. He said that the US emphasized “the need for speed and for getting to near-term deliverables.” His remarks came shortly after the EU’s head of trade said Washington was to blame for not engaging with Brussels on establishing a platform for a trade pact.

The dynamic between Mr. Ross’ and Ms. Malmstrom’s remarks points out to the difficulty of finding an agreement on the trade deal. The fighting mood increasing concerns around a potential US tariffs on European car makers, which comes only a few days after US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that the US administration was willing and ready to negotiate a trade deal with the EU. Despite this news, Donald Trump keeps on wielding the threat of auto tariffs.

The EU-US trade flows, as the world’s largest trade partnership, are worth around $1 trillion in annual goods and services trade and around $6 trillion in total foreign-direct investment. The idea of a quick-turn trade, however, seems elusive as the EU and US officials have been fighting over the “auto” accord of the deal and the US administration was also clear that any deal would include agriculture. “We are ready to start the scoping exercise on a limited agreement focused on industrial goods,” Ms. Malmstrom said Wednesday. “The US has not shown any big interest in this. The ball is in their court.”

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