European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström was in Washington, D.C. last week for exploratory trade talks with U.S. officials. Although Malmström does not yet have a mandate to move ahead on EU-U.S. trade negotiations, which requires authorization by the European Council, both sides surely had plenty to discuss at this stage.
Two months ago, both the EU and the United States released their respective negotiating directives that highlight a disagreement over whether to include agriculture within the scope of any trade talks. While the European Commission intends to limit negotiations to industrial goods and conformity assessment, the United States is pushing for a more far-reaching trade deal that also covers agricultural goods. The EU also wants to include discussions regarding automotive products within the scope of any trade negotiations on industrial goods, which it argues is required under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on preferential trade agreements (i.e., these must cover “substantially all trade” between members). Malmström is likely to also seek clarification on whether the Trump Administration intends to impose tariffs on certain EU automotive products. If it does, the EU has indicated the possibility that it will suspend any trade talks and retaliate. If the two sides can find common ground on these issues, however, the European Commission has stated that it hopes to conclude trade talks with the U.S. by November 2019.