WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the United States and the European Union were kicking off talks aimed at lowering trade barriers as officials looked to head off a brewing trade war.
“This was a very big day for free and fair trade, a very big day indeed,” Trump told reporters at the White House after meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“We are starting the negotiation right now but we know very much where it’s going,” Trump said.
Speaking with Juncker at his side, Trump said they had agreed in talks to “work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods.”
“We will also work to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans; soybeans is a big deal,” he said, adding that Europe would also step up purchases of liquefied natural gas from the United States.
“They are going to be a massive buyer of LNG,” Trump said.
Trump said the talks would “resolve” both the hefty tariffs the United States had placed on imports of steel and aluminum from the EU and the tariffs Europe had slapped on U.S. goods in response.
It was not clear whether the two sides made any progress on the contentious issue of possible U.S. tariffs on imports of automobiles from Europe.
But Juncker said they had agreed not to impose any new tariffs while talks were taking place.
“This was a good and constructive meeting,” Juncker said.
Trump has threatened to impose 25 percent tariffs on auto imports, a move that would hit European carmakers like BMW and Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE> hard, as well as Japanese and South Korean car companies.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Tim Ahmann and James Dalgleish)