U.S. and European Union trade negotiators will meet in Washington, D.C., this week to keep the ball rolling on talks first started back in July to reduce nontariffs barriers between the two. Progress may be announced on some minor issues, but other broader agreements are unlikely until next month at least.
"Both sides are still in the realm of figuring out what is reasonable to discuss," an official at a top U.S. trade group told the Washington Examiner. "There is a lot of political pressure on both sides to generate some near-term outcomes. What those near-term outcomes will look like is anybody's guess."
Relations between the U.S. and EU have been bumpy, with President Trump recently threatening 25 percent tariffs on European auto and auto parts imports and the EU also angry over steel and aluminum tariffs set up by the White House. In July, however, Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made a surprise announcement to work toward easing trade relations. The two leaders established an executive working group with the aim of eliminating all tariffs, barriers, and subsidies that currently harm businesses and consumers in the U.S. and Europe.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and European Union Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom said in a joint statement late last month that they hoped to "finalize outcomes in a number of areas" by November. This week's meeting is the follow-up to that announcement, the official said.
"There are official-level meetings of the U.S.-EU Executive Working Group on trade taking place this week," said an administration official. "These are the next in a series of meetings we’ve held with the Commission on implementing President Trump and President Juncker’s July 25 statement."
The trade group official said that both sides are under pressure to announce something this week to indicate that progress is being made. The official cited a recent move by the EU to adjust regulations to accept more U.S. beef as "the kind of measurable outcomes that president is looking for."
The steel, aluminum, and potential auto tariffs are expected to be issues that the EU will press the U.S. on. The Trump administration sees them as leverage to wring concessions. "Initially the Europeans said that they would not come to the table until those tariffs are lifted," the trade association official noted. "And yet they came to the table in July and those tariffs are still in place."