The European Union is ready to start talks on a trade agreement with the United States and aims to conclude a deal before year-end, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Monday.
The EU approved two areas for negotiation, opposed by France with an abstention from Belgium. But agriculture was not included, leaving the 28-country bloc at odds with Washington, which has insisted on including farm products in the talks.
The EU vote allows the Commission to start two sets of negotiations - one to cut tariffs on industrial goods, the other to make it easier for companies to show products meet EU or US standards.
Malmstrom said she would now reach out to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to see when talks could begin.
“We are ready as soon as they are,” Malmstrom told a news conference.