EU Trade Negotiator Heads to Washington for Talks


The EU's top trade negotiator Cecilia Malmstrom was headed to Washington on Monday to meet United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in an effort to breathe life into an attempt to strike a trade deal.

Lighthizer is also Trump's point man for just-launched trade talks with China, and the meeting with Malmstrom will include discussions on how the European Union and the U.S. as well as Japan can better cooperate to face Beijing.

The mooted trade deal with the EU came after U.S. 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.

Officials in Brussels hope the talks will cajole Trump away 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 U.S. was to boost European imports of soya from the U.S., a sensitive sector that has been decimated by Trump's trade war with China.

The European Commission announced on Monday that imports of U.S. soya beans by the EU increased by 112 percent over the current market year (July-December 2018), compared to the same period in the previous year.

The EU however insists that the boost is due only to market forces, and did not independently plan for the increase to satisfy Trump.

The Commission added that U.S. soya bean imports were likely to rise further after the EU facilitated the use of U.S. soya beans for biofuels in Europe.

The deal in July came after the U.S. slapped tariffs on steel and aluminium from the EU and other partners, that are still in effect.

The commission last week made definitive certain provisional "safeguard" measures put in place to protect Europe's steel industry from the knock-on effects of those tariffs.

Since Washington introduced its protectionist duties on metals at the beginning of June, steel production that no longer finds outlets in the United States has been flooding other markets, particularly Europe.

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