EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will be seeking a mandate from EU member states to kick off trade talks on industrial goods with the United States, she confirmed after meeting US Trade Representative Robert Lightize in Washington: “We are in the final preparations to finalize our draft mandate on industrial goods trade agreement and conformity assessment, which will facilitate trade between us”.
The conformity assessment defined the requirements for products to be sold on the EU market and is meant to sit alongside the deal that the EU Executive was planning to negotiate to get rid of the tariffs on industrial goods. The US trade head told the Congress that he intended to start talks with Brussels back in October 2018 but it was not yet clear when the negotiations would really start. Because the EU had recently finished talks with Japan and Canada, “it would be odd” not to negotiate with the United States, “which is our biggest investment and trade partner,” Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen commented in Brussels.
Ms. Malmstrom did not provide more information on the scope of her mandate for the negotiations, although she said that it would be centred around a ‘positive trade agenda’ that presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Trump agreed on in the summer. As such, agriculture would not be part of the deal although the US would be keen on having it in there. “We have made very clear agriculture will not be included,” the EU Commissioner said. Ms. Malmstrom’s trip to the US capital was part of a new round of talks that was initiated in July to relax the tensions in the transatlantic trade relations when the White House imposed tariffs on aluminium and steel.