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US wants new free trade deals with EU, UK, Japan

October 17, 2018

Washington is looking to fix "chronic" trade imbalances by negotiating trade agreements with the UK, the EU, and Japan, US officials have said. Donald Trump's efforts to cut trade deficit have so far been unsuccessful.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer talks to reporters with Trump in the background
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (center) talks to reporters at the White HouseImage: Reuters/K. Lamarque

US officials formally notified the Congress on Tuesday of their intent to negotiate separate trade deals with the EU, the UK, and Japan.

"We are committed to concluding these negotiations with timely and substantive results for American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses," US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

Under American law, the Office of the US Trade Representative is obliged to notify the lawmakers about its goals at least 30 days before the talks begin.

The three accords aim to fix "chronic US trade imbalances" and barriers presented to US exporters abroad, according to Lighthizer.

Bracing for trouble with Macron

The move comes just weeks after the US, Canada, and Mexico renegotiated the NAFTA trade deal following opposition from US President Donald Trump. After Trump rallied against the original deal and claimed it was unfair to the US, the accord was renamed as UMSCA and tweaked in areas such labor rights and rules of origin.

However, striking deals with other trading partners might prove to be more complicated.

Read more: Donald Trump's trade spats with the EU, China, and the US neighbors - what you need to know

Trump and Trudeau come to terms on trade treaty

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he won't support EU trade talks with countries outside the Paris climate agreement.Trump has pulled the US from the deal last year, making it the only country in the world to formally oppose it. (Though it's worth noting that more than a dozen signatories to the deal, including major emitters like Russia and Turkey, are yet to ratify it.)

The UK is locked in tense Brexit talks and would not be able to formally negotiate any deals before defining its relationship with the EU.

Trump's election campaign relied heavily on promises of balancing global trade and returning manufacturing jobs to the US. However, the US trade deficit has continued to grow since he took office following the 2016 election. In August 2018, the monthly deficit reached $38.6 billion (€33.4 billion) with China and $8.7 billion with Mexico, both of them historic highs.

dj/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)