The US has reached an agreement to lower tariffs on international trade and is looking for a way to ease concerns about a potential trade war with Europe, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said.
The announcement Wednesday by Representative Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, was the first substantive step to finalizing the US-EU trade agreement, which has long been seen as the most important item on the agenda before the US election in November.
The agreement was negotiated by the US Trade Representative’s office and the European Commission, and was endorsed by the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress.
It sets the baseline for US-European trade talks.
“The deal is the result of a year of hard work and cooperation between the Administration and the other members of the G7 group, including Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Japan,” Engel said in a statement.
“We have concluded that our best strategy for a trade deal is to work together on a broader set of issues that are important to all of our countries.”
The US has not been negotiating a trade agreement with the EU since 1994, when President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The accord, which President Donald Trump has not yet signed, gives US companies the right to sue governments over policies they say hurt their businesses.
“We’ve got a lot of very important issues that we’re going to be negotiating this year and I think it’s a great opportunity to really bring those issues forward,” Engel told reporters at a news conference Wednesday morning.
Engel said the agreement will make the US more competitive globally and in the world market, and will help the US “make more progress on our core priorities to increase prosperity for the American people.”
The deal also is likely to have some significant implications for the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Trump has vowed to tear up.
The pact will help America “make its best progress on its core priorities,” Engel added.
The White House has said the US will seek to ratify the deal by the end of the year.EU leaders have said they are open to the agreement as long as it does not include a new trade chapter that would further weaken the US.
The deal includes a free-trade zone that covers Canada, Mexico and the United States, with some provisions in the US to be included in that.EU negotiators have also said they intend to include new trade rules, including an exemption for US food, and the elimination of US tariffs on a range of goods, such as textiles and cosmetics, that would make it easier for American firms to do business with the bloc.
“Today is a great day for the United Kingdom,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said in the Whitehouse news conference, calling the agreement a “watershed” moment for the EU.
“It is a step forward for our partnership and we look forward to working with the US and other countries to ensure that it continues to grow.”