European Union countries on Monday overruled France and gave the green light for Brussels to open trade talks with Washington as soon as possible and defuse trans-Atlantic tensions.
The EU’s 28 member states had struggled for months to agree on a mandate to open the talks, with some fearing the delay would restart a trade war with US President Donald Trump.
But EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg approved a mandate to negotiate “an agreement limited to the elimination of tariffs for industrial goods only” and another accord designed to remove non-tariff barriers.
The ministers said the mandate would exclude agriculture products, which EU trade minister Cecilia Malmstrom said amounted to a “red line” for Europe.
US officials have pushed for farm products to be included.
Malmstrom underlined the determination of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to finish the talks before its five-year term ends on October 31.
Pursuing a limited trade deal is a key element of a truce negotiated in July that came close earlier this month to imploding after the US threatened $11 billion in fresh trade tariffs against Europe.