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No agriculture in US-EU trade deal: official

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom (C), US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Hiroshige Seko (L), meet to discuss changing trade rules to deal with Chinese practices
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom (C), US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Hiroshige Seko (L), meet to discuss changing trade rules to deal with Chinese practices AFP
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Washington (AFP)

The EU stands firm in its refusal to include agriculture in a new trade deal with the United States, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said Wednesday.

Malmstroem met in Washington with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to work out an agreement to resolve the trade dispute between the two economies.

While American officials have said the European Union will increase imports of US crops, Malmstroem told reporters, "We have made that very clear that from our side we're not going to include agriculture, that has been made very clear from the beginning."

However, she said, the EU more than doubled imports of American soy beans -- sales of which have plummeted due to a Chinese retaliation in its trade war with the United States.

US President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed in July that neither side would impose any new tariffs on the other so long as talks continued.

Washington has threatened to slap punishing tariffs on auto imports citing national security concerns, which worries German automakers, but Malmstroem said she continues to expect "the Americans will stick to the agreement," and exempt the EU from any new tariffs.

The US Commerce Department is expected to issue a report in early February on the auto tariffs threat, but economists say would deal a serious blow to the global economy.

EU officials are preparing negotiating mandates for a possible deal to eliminate tariffs on industrial goods traded with the United States, which Malmstroem said could include automobiles.

Malmstroem said it "would be very good for both sides if we could get rid of tariffs on all industrial goods."

Malmstroem and Lighthizer are meeting Wednesday with Japanese officials as the three sides work on reforms to global trading rules to address alleged unfair practices by China.

In late 2017, Washington, Brussels and Tokyo announced they were making common cause against alleged market-distorting practices, a clear reference to China, which Washington has accused of stealing intellectual property and massive state intervention in markets.

The three sides are developing proposed reforms to the World Trade Organization to address this.

"We are worried about many of the Chinese practices because there are no real rules for that in the WTO and that's what we're trying to remedy," Malmstroem said Wednesday.

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