U.S. trade negotiations with the European Union formed the basis of a “real agreement” between the two parties that will reduce tensions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday.
Mnuchin spoke to CNBC a day after the White House announced it had reached a general agreement with the European Union to work toward zero tariffs and reform the World Trade Organization. President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker held talks Wednesday on disputes between the two parties.
In the wake of those negotiations, Mnuchin said the hoped-for outcome is an elimination of all tariffs ultimately, and in the nearer term no additional tariffs and a removal of duties on steel and aluminum.
“I think we’re well on our way to resolving a lot of these trade issues,” he said.
Markets have been on edge as the U.S. and its trading partners have parried back and forth over the trade issues. The U.S. began the tensions with global tariffs on steel and aluminum and recently instituted $34 billion worth of charges on Chinese imports. In addition, the White House has outlined another $200 billion that it is targeting should negotiations prove fruitless.
Mnuchin’s comments on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” indicated progress with the EU that the administration hopes can be replicated elsewhere.
“We had a long negotiation session yesterday. We concluded an outline of an agreement, and now we’ll turn this into a real agreement,” he said. “But this really started with President Trump and his discussions at the G-7, making it clear that we want with the G-7 and Europe free trade, which was no tariffs, no tariff barriers, no subsidies.”
It’s all part of a larger strategy with the World Trade Organization that Mnuchin called “WTO 2.0.”
More immediately, he said the U.S. and Europe will work on ending the steel and aluminum tariffs. While those negotiations are ongoing, there will no new tariffs imposed.
“I think we have the groundwork laid, and I hope to resolve that very quickly,” he said.
Mnuchin was less committal when it came to China. Larry Kudlow, the head of the National Economic Council, said last week that China has been resistant to negotiating.
“We’re available any time,” Mnuchin said on China. “So there continue to be some quiet conversations. We’re prepared if they’re going to make serious moves to negotiate.”
“Our longer-term objective is not to collect tariffs. Our longer-term objective is to have free and fair and reciprocal trade,” he added.
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