Merkel Tamps Down U.S. Criticism That Trade Talks Are Dragging

(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to quell a brewing trade dispute with the U.S. a day after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross accused the European Union of dragging its feet.

“These talks should be continued and if we measure it with other trade talks and their duration they haven’t yet taken so long,” Merkel told reporters in Brussels on Thursday after a meeting of EU leaders. “I’m quite happy that they are taking place.”

Ross lashed out at European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom for saying the onus is on the U.S. to come up with proposals to lower tariffs on industrial goods. “We really need tangible progress,” he said on Wednesday. President Donald Trump’s “patience is not unlimited,” he said.

The tit-for-tat argument over which side is to blame for growing trade tensions threatens a July agreement between Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to work toward the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers on industrial goods.

Merkel was quick to admit the difficulty ahead. “That these talks won’t be easy is clear to all,” Merkel said.

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