European Union ministers have begun a debate on when to start trade negotiations with the United States. They are cognizant that President Donald Trump may impose punitive tariffs on EU car imports if they wait too long. The European Commission has asked the EU's 28 countries to approve two negotiating mandates so that formal talks can begin.
Germany, whose exports of cars and parts to the United States are worth more than half the EU total, wants to get started as soon as possible. But France, with very few U.S. car exports, is reluctant to move before the European Parliament election in May as they see no real political reason to forge ahead. "We need to start negotiating," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told reporters before Friday's meeting. The EU is looking now to start negotiations on tariff reductions, possibly including cars, as well as a separate set of talks on making it easier for companies to clear their products for sale on both sides of the Atlantic.
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