Turning from China, Mnuchin says U.S. focused on EU pact

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. trade officials will immediately focus on resolving steel and aluminum tariff issues with the European Union, while a broader trade agreement between the parties likely rolls out in stages over the next year, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday.

In an interview on CNBC, Mnuchin said the United States was focused on its European partners, although there continued to be quiet conversations with China over trade.

“If they’re willing to make serious changes just as the EU did yesterday, we’ll negotiate with China any time,” he told reporters at the White House following his television interview.

“We’re very focused on the EU,” he told CNBC.

On Wednesday, the European Union reportedly offered concessions on trade during talks at the White House between President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Mnuchin told CNBC that U.S. and European officials had an agreement in principal and planned to move forward to “turn it into a real agreement,” but gave few details.

He said officials from both sides would immediately focus on steel and aluminum tariffs first “so that there can be no tariffs in either direction,” and he expected that issue to be resolved “very quickly.”

“We have an outline … in agriculture, in chemicals, in medical devices, in industrial LNG. So we’re going to make a lot of progress,” he told reporters later.

Threatened U.S. auto tariffs would be put on hold while overall talks with the EU are ongoing, Mnuchin said.

On the NAFTA talks with Mexico and Canada, Mnuchin said he was “hopeful that we’ll have an agreement in principal in the near future.”

“Whether it’s one deal or two deals, so long as we get the right agreement, we’re indifferent,” he told CNBC, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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