GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced deep regret at France’s staunch opposition to a trade agreement between the European Union and the United States, describing the potential deal as crucially important.
D-Day landings: Theresa May introduces Queen to world leaders
France has asked for climate change provisions to be included in any deal with Washington – but this demand is difficult given the US’ shock withdrawal from the Paris agreement in 2017. Mrs Merkel told the BDI industry association, stressing the need to move forward on talks despite the French position: “We have a mandate to negotiate with the United States and I think it is of existential importance. It is regrettable that France voted against this mandate but perhaps we still have some work to do on convincing people.” And the pair came face to face in Portsmouth for the D-Day commemorations today in an awkward moment.
She added she wanted to continue talks to achieve practical solutions that would avoid a bumpy phase for the global economy.
In March, the European Commission, which negotiates trade deals on behalf of the 28 EU member states, presented two negotiating mandates to EU governments for approval: one on reducing tariffs on industrial goods, the other on making it easier for companies to clear their products for sale on both sides of the Atlantic.
France objected to the decision while Belgium abstained.
French President Emmanuel Macron wants climate change provisions to be included in any deal with the US – a demand which is practically impossible to ensure given his American counterpart Donald Trump’s exit from the Paris climate accord in 2017.
Merkel and Macron pictured today at the D-Day commemorations in Portsmouth (Image: GETTY•PA)
“We won’t sign a deal with a country that has exited from the Paris accord,” Nathalie Loiseau, a close Macron ally and newly elected MEP, said in an interview with the news channel BFMTV late March.
The EU Commission, however, agreed in April to start trade talks with the US on industrial goods – despite the French opposition.
The EU is “ready” to conclude a deal before year-end, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told reporters.
Agriculture, however, was left out of the EU mandates, leaving the Brussels bloc at odds with the Trump administration, which has insisted on including farm products in the deal.
Macron and Merkel were pictured sitting away from eachother in Portsmouth (Image: GETTY)
We have a mandate to negotiate with the United States and I think it is of existential importance
“Agriculture will certainly not be part of these negotiations. This is a red line for Europe,” Mrs Malmstrom said.
But Mr Trump wants agricultural products to be put on the table, arguing: “They barely take our agricultural products, and yet they can sell Mercedes Benz and they can sell anything they want in our country including their farm products, and it’s not fair.”
Mr Trump rattled Brussels last year when he decided to slap punishing tariffs on European steel and aluminium. The EU 28 retaliated immediately, imposing duties on denim, peanut butter, whisky and other American goods. The bloc also took the case to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
EU Commission: Merkel and Macron in ‘tussle’ says expert
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker settled the trade dispute with Washington a couple of months later.
He agreed with Mr Trump to work together to bring existing tariffs towards zero on non-auto industrial goods, to buy more liquefied natural gas from the US and to find ways to align their trading standards.
Source: EXPRESS CO UK