EU feud looms as Brussels tries to rush through US trade deal in WEEKS to beat UK

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The European Commission President is in a race against time to beat the UK to a trade deal with the US, and wants to put pen to paper on a mini agreement. The German said she wanted to make the deal with Washington within a “few weeks” after meeting the US President at the World Economic Forum at the Davos ski resort. The pact should cover “trade, technology and energy” in order to keep President Trump’s tariff threats, on aircraft, wine, steel and aluminium, and German cars, at bay.

But such a high pressure trade agreement would likely come with a series of demands from Washington, mainly agricultural concessions.

The US has long sought to open up European markets for its farmers, and will insist there is no deal without farm goods on the table.

France, Austria and the Netherlands are playing a leading role in ensuring the Commission is blocked from negotiating away the continent’s agricultural sector.

Phil Hogan, the EU’s trade commissioner, has said: “We are trying to look at ways there through regulatory cooperation we might be able to look at non-tariff barriers as a way of bringing agricultural issues on the table.”

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EU feud looms as Brussels tries to rush through US trade deal in WEEKS to beat UK

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen wants a trade deal with Donald Trump within weeks (Image: GETTY)

The Irishman believes offering minor farming concessions, mainly food standards approvals, could open up room for talks on exports such as “apples and pears” – two products EU farmers want to export to the US.

Sabine Weyand, the EU’s most senior trade official, has suggested Brussels could be ready to accept US recognition of standards for oysters and clams.

However, US agriculture minister Sonny Perdue questioned whether this would be enough to open up trade talks.

He said: “We’re not going to get there with apples and pears and shellfish.

“There are other things that have to happen.”

Any further concessions would spark fears that the bloc is ready to accept lower food standards in order to appease Mr Trump.

The Netherlands’ trade minister hinted any concessions could be vetoed because of national parliaments not wanting to accept lower standards.

Sigrid Kaag said: “The EU and the Commission can only work with a mandate that has been given and that’s about conformity recognition, regulation and the industrial aspects.

“There is nothing else.

“Commissioner Hogan has said that in the future perhaps [there would be talks on agriculture]. Those are his words, the words of Commissioner Hogan.”

She added: “I understand the intention, because it signals goodwill towards the US government that the EU isn’t stubborn. They are taking the cold out of the air, but the mandate is the mandate.”


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