U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday urged both the European Union and China to engage in talks with the United States to reduce trade barriers.
“The president went to the G-7,” Mnuchin said during a briefing for reporters. “For anyone who doesn’t think the president is a free-trader, the president said, ‘Let’s have a free trade agreement. No tariffs. No tariff barriers.’ Okay? Europe wants to have free trade. Let’s see them respond, OK, with a genuine offer.”
Trump has inflamed trade relations with Europe by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to protect U.S. national security, and is threatening to do the same on auto imports. But Mnunchin said he believed those actions were key to the German auto industry proposing talks with the U.S. to eliminate auto and other trade barriers – though formal talks would have to be initiated by EU officials, since the EU negotiates trade deals as a bloc.
“I think it’s a positive thing that the German automakers have proposed no tariffs. Why do you think they’re doing that? They’re doing that because the president, OK, has threatened tariffs. Again, the president wants free trade,” Mnuchin said.
Trump has also started a tit-for-tat trade war with China by imposing the steel and aluminum tariffs and by readying trade restrictions through a separate investigation aimed exclusively at Chinese theft of intellectual property and forced technology transfers.
Both sides are set to impose a 25 percent duty on $34 billion of each other’s goods, starting July 6, and could follow that with further tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of additional goods.
Mnuchin gave no indication of a last-minute attempt between the two countries to forestall the first wave of tariffs, but said the United States remains open to negotiation.
“I’m not going to make specific comments on where we are in dialogue. But if China wants to come to the table with free and fair trade and treating American companies fairly and reducing the trade deficit, OK, we’re always willing to listen."
The Treasury chief also touched briefly on the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation with Canada and Mexico, saying that the administration hoped to resume formal talks after Mexico holds its presidential election on July 1.
The original story can be found here.
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