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Courting of EU on trade grows as U.S. withdraws: EU trade chief

Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's partners have thrown more energy into trade talks with the bloc since Donald Trump's election, the EU's trade chief said on Tuesday, warning that those backing trade barriers were "doomed to fail".

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said EU-U.S. trade negotiations were "firmly in the freezer" and that, while the United States was the EU's most important partner, there was a long list of countries wanting to deal with the 28-nation bloc.

"If anything, since November, we have seen many of our partners throw more energy and more resources at their negotiations with the EU," she told a conference at the Bruegel economic think tank in Brussels.

Since his inauguration as president last Friday, Trump has already withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and confirmed plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Trade was essential for employment - with some 31 million European jobs dependent on exports - and was a way to spread good values and standards across the globe and to lift people in developing countries out of poverty, Malmstrom said.

Most countries, she said, still shared the same vision, believing in the benefits of open trade and investments.

"Those who, in the 21st century, think that we can become great again by rebuilding borders, reimposing trade barriers, restricting people's freedom to move, are doomed to fail," she said.

As the United States withdraws from TPP, the European Union is steadily lining up most of the remaining 11 countries that signed up to the deal a year ago.

The EU already has a pact with Peru, has agreed trade treaties with Canada, Singapore and Vietnam that are yet to take effect, appears close to a trade deal with Japan, is in talks with Mexico, plans to open talks with Australia, New Zealand and Chile and is looking at the prospect of talks with Malaysia.

"Certainly enough to keep us busy," Malmstrom said.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

 

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