BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union and the United States have agreed to seek to increase trade cooperation, EU executive chief Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday, as a major free trade deal now looks a distant prospect.
European Commission President Juncker told reporters he and U.S. President Donald Trump spent considerable time discussing international trade during their meeting of some 90 minutes, also attended by European Council President Donald Tusk.
He declined to say whether he and Tusk had brought up the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed EU-U.S. free trade agreement that Brussels and Washington had spent more than three years negotiating.
“We insisted on the importance of having free and fair competition,” Juncker told reporters.
He said delegations from Trump’s administration and the European Commission would meet in “the coming weeks and months” to find ways to increase trade cooperation.
“We felt that there is too much divergence in policy and practice between these two large economies,” he said.
Tusk said in a televised statement after the joint meeting with Trump that trade was one of the issues that remained “open”.
TTIP talks have been put on hold, or “frozen” according to some in Brussels, since Trump’s election victory on a more protectionist platform last November.
The EU’s trade focus has turned to the Asia-Pacific region, including some of the 11 nations that were set to join forces with the United States in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, until Trump’s rejection of that deal on his first day in office.
The Commission, which negotiates free trade deals on behalf of the 28-member EU, says its attention is now on possible agreements with Japan, Mexico and the Mercosur bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
It is also seeking to implement agreed deals with Canada, Vietnam and Singapore.
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Philip Blenkinsop; Writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Tom Heneghan