Statement by Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Minister in charge of International Trade

Today, the Council of the European Union has adopted the mandates authorizing the opening of negotiations with the United States for the conclusion of two separate agreements, namely an agreement on the elimination of tariffs for industrial goods and an agreement on conformity assessment.

Throughout the discussions, the Luxembourg authorities have been keen to reach a text helping secure the commitment of the European Union to put an end to the trade tensions with the United States, notably in view of their impact on the European steel industry.

In doing so, as Minister responsible for international trade and in accordance with the framework established by the Council of Government, I have repeatedly said that only an agreement limited to industrial tariffs is possible because of the rejection of the Paris agreement on climate change by the United States. In addition, Luxembourg has requested that the adoption of these new mandates be accompanied by the repeal of the TTIP mandate.

In this respect, the mandate now given to the Commission offers the following guarantees:

  1. It recalls that the European Union seeks the negotiation of deep and comprehensive free trade agreements only with Parties to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
  2. It stresses that the negotiating directives for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership must be considered obsolete and no longer relevant.
  3. The agreement specifically excludes tariffs on agricultural products from the agreement. Only the elimination of tariffs on industrial goods is concerned. Particular sensitivities will be taken into account, for example in the energy‑intensive product and fisheries sectors, by providing appropriate phasing out periods for the elimination of tariffs, and exclusions for the most sensitive tariff lines.

A conclusion will only be reached if the United States has put an end to the measures on steel and aluminum, which also affect the Luxembourg industry. In the meantime, any new measure against European interests may mean the end of the negotiations.

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