May 4, 2018 / 3:31 PM / 3 months ago

France against trade negotiations over U.S. tariffs: minister to Les Echos

PARIS (Reuters) - France is against the European Union entering into trade negotiations with the United States over metal tariffs and an exemption for the bloc should be without conditions and permanent, a junior French minister said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: French Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

“The French government shares the European Commission’s position, that is to demand a full, permanent and unconditional exemption,” Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, a junior minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Les Echos newspaper.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week called for EU member states to give Trade Commissioner Celia Malmstrom a clear mandate for negotiations with Washington, and a top German minister acknowledged differences with Paris.

The priority for export-oriented Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is to get a broad agreement to lower tariffs across a broad spectrum of products, especially in manufacturing.

“We don’t share the strategy that would aim to enter into negotiations on tariffs,” Lemoyne said, without saying if that referred to Germany or other countries.

“Indeed, if this negotiation became solely about tariffs on automobiles, we would be in violation of World Trade Organization rules unless we were to apply the reduction of rights to all countries and not only the United States, which is undesirable,” the junior minister said.

Lemoyne said the French and German governments were in “constant discussion” about the matter. “Paris and Berlin share the same ambition: the European Union cannot be the scapegoat of steel trade tensions generated by other countries,” he said.

Earlier, a German government spokesman said EU member states should engage in intensive talks to reach a common position.

Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by Richard Lough and Ingrid Melander

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