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EU moves to limit focus of trade talks with US

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union approved Monday its terms for negotiating a new trade deal with the United States, but set up a possible show-down with Washington by refusing to include agricultural products in the talks.

Making public the mandate for the EU’s executive commission to conduct negotiations on their behalf, the bloc’s member countries said that the new deal will focus exclusively on eliminating tariffs on industrial goods.

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EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the commission wants to wrap the talks up within six months, and that she would contact her U.S. counterpart Robert Lighthizer later Monday to work out when formal negotiations might begin.

We are now ready to move ahead into the next phase of EU-U.S. relations,If we agree to start, I think it can go quite quickly. There are sensitivities, absolutely, but we can manage this quite quickly

Malmstrom told reporters in Brussels.The commission’s term in office expires at the end of October.

The trade talks are the result of a preliminary deal reached last July by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Donald Trump as Brussels sought to head off a looming trans-Atlantic trade war after Trump slapped tariffs on imports of EU steel and aluminum.

The United States has long wanted more access to the EU’s protected market for farm products. But William Reinsch, a former U.S. trade official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that Trump “gave agriculture away” in his meeting with Juncker, agreeing to focus U.S.-EU talks on non-automotive industrial products.

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