August 30, 2018 / 12:02 PM / 23 days ago

EU deeply disagrees with U.S. on trade despite detente

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union’s detente on tariffs with the United States has not put to rest “profound disagreements” on trade policy, the European commissioner in charge of trade said on Thursday.

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump rejected an EU offer to eliminate tariffs on cars and said the EU’s trade policies are “almost as bad as China,” Bloomberg News reported.

Trump agreed in July to refrain from imposing car tariffs while the two sides sought to cut other trade barriers, in a move described then by the European Commission chief as a major concession.

Speaking to the trade committee of the European Parliament on Thursday, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom discussed a group that she and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead to determine how tariffs might be removed on industrial goods.

“We are not negotiating anything, we have a working group. We have profound disagreements with the United States on trade policy,” Malmstrom said.

A number of the European lawmakers were fierce critics of a planned EU-U.S. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), negotiations which ended after Trump’s election victory in 2016.

“We are not restarting TTIP ... This could be a more limited trade agreement, focused on tariffs on goods only,” Malmstrom said.

She also said the European Union would be willing to reduce its car tariffs to zero, if the United States did the same, going beyond the provisional agreement struck in July which referred only to “non-auto industrial goods”.

“We would do it if they do it. That remains to be seen,” she said, adding she hoped a deal could be finalised by the end of the Commission’s five-year term running until Oct. 31, 2019.

Trump, in an interview with Bloomberg, said of the EU proposal to scrap auto tariffs: “It’s not good enough.”

“Their consumer habits are to buy their cars, not to buy our cars,” Trump added, according to Bloomberg.

“The European Union is almost as bad as China, just smaller,” Bloomberg quoted Trump as saying.

The European Union remains at odds with the United States over U.S. blocking of the appointment of judges at the World Trade Organization, over tariffs set for reasons of national security and over Washington’s tough stance towards China.

Malmstrom said many U.S. companies and politicians were voicing concerns over goods becoming more expensive in the United States as a result of tariffs.

The European Union shared U.S. criticism of China over industry subsidies, state intervention and forced technology transfers, but believed its approach was wrong, she said.

“We share those concerns, but we do not agree with their methods of imposing massively billions of tariffs on China, as they have also done with Turkey. We do not share U.S. view that trade wars are good and easy to win,” the commissioner said.

FILE PHOTO: European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom attends an interview with Reuters in Geneva, Switzerland June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Additional reporting by Makini Brice in Washington; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Chris Reese

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