EU Sees Path to Begin Trade-Deal Talks With the U.S. in April

(Bloomberg) -- European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom indicated she may soon receive a green light from the bloc’s governments for negotiations with the U.S. on cutting industrial tariffs.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday before an EU summit at which trade policy will be discussed, Malmstrom told reporters that “very strong support” exists in the national capitals for the initiative and that she may get the go-ahead in April. Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini signaled as much.

“We fully support the idea,” Pellegrini said in the Belgian capital before the meeting of government leaders from the 28-nation EU. “Malmstrom will get this mandate from us.”

Malmstrom is rushing to begin the market-opening deliberations with the U.S. in a bid to show President Donald Trump progress by the EU in enacting a July 2018 political accord that he reached with her boss, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The deal suspended the threat of U.S. levies on EU cars and auto parts that would be based on the same national-security grounds used by Trump to apply controversial duties last year on foreign steel and aluminum. At the same time, the pact eight months ago expressed a desire to resolve the dispute over the American metal levies, which prompted the European side to retaliate with tit-for-tat duties.

At a Brussels conference on Transatlantic relations earlier on Thursday, Malmstrom repeated criticism of the U.S. threat to impose automotive tariffs and of the American metal-import duties.

“Many in Europe are offended that the U.S. would consider close allies such as the European Union to be a security threat,” she said.

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