The European Union has voted to kick off trade talks with the US in the face of French resistance, it announced today.
Read more: US threatens tariffs on $11bn of EU goods
A meeting of member states today voted overwhelmingly to give the European Commission, which deals with trade policy, the green light to start negotiations with the US in the hope of ending rising tensions between the countries.
The talks will focus on a trade agreement on industrial goods and will also try to reach a second agreement to make it easier for companies to prove their products meet standards requirements on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Commission continued to insist that talks will not concern agricultural products, something the Trump administration has been pushing for.
Earlier this year President Donald Trump criticised the EU’s trade stance towards America, saying: “They don’t allow our products in. They don’t allow our farming goods in.”
Belgium abstained on the vote while France voted against. France has insisted that the talks should also cover climate change, a request that the Commission has taken on board.
In an official statement the Commission said it “will further examine the potential economic, environmental and social impacts of the agreement, taking into account the commitments of the EU in international agreements, including the Paris Agreement on climate change.”
This is likely to cause tensions with the US, however, which withdrew from the Paris Agreement in 2017.
In July 2018, the EU secured a reprieve from Trump’s proposed tariffs on cars and car parts, which make up some of the bloc’s biggest exports to the US.
In January the Commission officially proposed to member states negotiations on removing industrial tariffs and reaching “conformity assessments” with the US.
The president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, today said: “We want a win-win situation on trade, beneficial for both the EU and the U.S. Notably we want to slash tariffs on industrial products as this could lead to an additional increase in EU and U.S. exports worth around €26 billion.”
EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said: “This is a welcome decision that will help ease trade tensions. We are now ready to start formal talks for these two targeted agreements that will bring tangible benefits for people and economies on both sides of the Atlantic.”