The stars of the European Union (EU) sit on a flag flying outside the European Commission building during the start of Brexit negotiations in Brussels, Belgium, (Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg)

Europe Faces Test of Unity as Critical U.S. Trade Talks Near

(Bloomberg) -- Leaders from the European Union voiced support for a unified position in confronting the U.S. over trade, even as two of its largest members differed over what conditions should be met in order for discussions to take place.

“It’s either you strike a deal with all, or you don’t strike a deal,” Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra told Bloomberg in an interview at the Group of 20 nations meeting in Buenos Aires. “One of the things that is very clear from this whole episode is that it is practically and legally impossible to strike a deal with one of the countries of the European Union, rather than with the European Union as a whole.”

His remarks come days before European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker travels to Washington to meet President Donald Trump. The EU will propose exploring the possibility of reducing car tariffs for several key trade partners, people with knowledge of the plans said last week.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has argued that the U.S. must “return to reason” and rescind its tariffs on steel and aluminum imports before European countries discuss overhauling aspects of global trade. His view contrasts with that of German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who said on Sunday that it remains “unchanged” that the U.S. should reverse the steps it has taken, while emphasizing “it’s important that we speak with one another.”

Asked about the apparent differences in the two leaders positions, Scholz stressed there is complete agreement in the region that trade issues must be faced together, and that individual national solutions won’t be able to overcome the challenges.

“One of the consequences, which probably wasn’t the aim of the U.S. president’s policies, could be an incredible speeding up of the European Union’s integration process,” he told reporters. “Everyone is starting to realize that we will only be strong together.”

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