December 4, 2019 / 12:24 PM / 8 days ago

EU seeks talks with U.S. on French goods tariff threat, ready to act

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during the media briefing after the first meeting of her new college of commissioners in Brussels, Belgium, December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union would prefer talks with the United States to discuss Washington’s threat of tariffs on French luxury goods, but is ready to take action if that fails, the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

The U.S. government said on Monday it may slap duties of up to 100% on $2.4 billion in imports from France of Champagne, handbags, cheese and other products, after concluding that France’s new digital services tax would harm U.S. tech firms.

“I think with the announcement of potential tariffs or putting them in fact, we have to be careful to choose our words,” von der Leyen told a briefing in response to a question.

“What I prefer, is to first of all have a well-prepared meeting to go through the different issues we do have and to see that we have as much win-win situation as possible,” she said.

“I’m aware of the fact that this will not be the case in every case, but of course if there is a negative outcome in some cases we are ready to act on our own,” she said.

The European Commission is responsible for negotiating trade agreements for the whole European Union of 28 countries.

Reporting by Marine Strauss, writing by Jan Strupczewski

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