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No Breakthrough in US-EU Trade Talks

No Breakthrough in US-EU Trade TalksNo Breakthrough in US-EU Trade Talks

Top trade officials from the US and EU met to begin efforts to turn a much heralded deal to avert a trade war into a concrete long-term agreement.

After the meeting in Brussels, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said she would meet US trade representative Robert Lighthizer again by the end of the month. But neither side announced any immediate breakthrough, AFP reported.

“We discussed how to move forward and identify priorities on both sides,” Malmstrom wrote on Twitter, “and how to achieve concrete results in the short to medium term.” Lighthizer’s office called it a “constructive meeting.”

The negotiators’ cautious response to this first chance to “operationalize” plans for a limited trans-Atlantic trade pact came in stark contrast to the enthusiasm surrounding its birth.

In July, US President Donald Trump and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker pledged to hold off from further tit-for-tat tariffs and to work towards scrapping customs duties on all goods.

Both sides hailed the deal as a major breakthrough, but subsequent statements showed that disputes persist, especially over agriculture, which Washington insists will be a key part of any agreement.

“Lots of work remains this autumn, our services will be in close contact in the coming weeks,” Malmstrom said, promising that technical teams will meet in October.

Under pressure from France, Europe refuses to allow farm goods to be included in trade negotiations, creating a sticking point that Malmstrom and Lighthizer must get past.

“The idea is that the commission and the United States agree on a framework document, perhaps by the end of the year,” a European source told AFP.

“Trump and Juncker have an agreement, but in reality, we didn’t completely agree on the scope of the discussions,” she added.

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