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U.S. sets new trade talks with EU, Japan, Britain

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U.S. officials announced Tuesday negotiations for separate trade agreements with Britain, the European Union and Japan as part of efforts by President Donald Trump's administration to rebalance global commerce.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the administration notified Congress of its intent to negotiate the three separate trade agreements.

"We are committed to concluding these negotiations with timely and substantive results for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses," Lighthizer said.

The move follows the Trump administration's renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico and its push to correct what Trump maintains is an unbalanced trade picture.

In the notifications to Congress on Japan and the EU, Lighthizer cited "chronic U.S. trade imbalances" and said that U.S. exporters have been long "challenged" by tariff and non-tariff barriers in Japan and in Europe.

The goal, he said, is to achieve "fairer, more balanced" trade with the U.S. trading partners.

He said bilateral trade talks with Japan would begin in mid-January to "address both tariff and nontariff barriers" in sectors such as automobiles and agriculture, and to "achieve fairer, more balanced trade."

Lighthizer said the U.S. would seek a trade agreement with Britain as soon as it exits the European Union in 2019.

The letter to Congress said Washington would seek to address tariff and non-tariff barriers and achieve "free, fair and reciprocal trade" with the United Kingdom.

Trump has been playing hardball with U.S. trading partners, using tariffs and threats in an effort to boost U.S. exports and curb the longstanding deficit in merchandise trade, despite warnings from many U.S. lawmakers and the International Monetary Fund.

"We need to work together to de-escalate and resolve the current trade disputes," IMF chief Christine Lagarde said at an IMF and World Bank gathering in Bali last week.

Trump has levied or threatened tariffs on goods from economies around the world, notably China, but also on traditional allies such as the European Union.

More tariffs and their countermeasures "could lead to a broader tightening of financial conditions, with negative implications for the global economy and financial stability," the fund warned.

© 2018 AFP

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