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EU Official Says Trade Talks With U.S. in 'Deep Freeze'

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03/20/2017 | 11:52pm CEST
By Paul Vieira and David George-Cosh 

TORONTO -- The European Union's chief trade official said Monday the Trump administration is sending "worrying signals" on trade, arguing that erecting barriers to global commerce threatens to kill jobs and raise prices for consumers in both developed and emerging economies.

In remarks in Toronto, Cecilia Malmström said the EU is seeking to bolster trade ties with partners like Canada, with which the bloc reached a trade pact last fall.

By contrast, Ms. Malmström said the EU's free trade talks with the U.S. are in a "deep freeze" as the Trump Administration seeks bilateral trade deals as opposed to multilateral or regional ones.

The EU, she said, will continue to seek liberalized trade around the world even with Britain leaving the union. That move, she said, will create the need to forge a new trade deal between the EU and Britain.

"We do not agree with those who think the answer is to raise barriers," Ms. Malmström said in a speech to students at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.

"In Europe which has long divided itself by walls and borders, we know those divisions bring anything but freedom and prosperity," Ms. Malmström said. "We know that unplugging from the global grid is not an option. It would kill jobs, not create them."

Ms. Malmström, on a two-day visit to Canada, spoke days after the conclusion of a meeting among finance chiefs from the Group of 20 countries. In their closely watched communiqué, the finance chiefs eschewed any disavowal of protectionism, after objections from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

To date, U.S. President Donald Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which included 12 Pacific Rim countries and was championed by his predecessor. He has also signaled plans to renegotiate the terms of the North American Free-Trade Agreement.

White House officials have also argued the U.S. faces a growing economic and potential national security risk from the commercial behavior of its major trading partners, including China and Germany.

Write to Paul Vieira at paul.vieira@wsj.com and David George-Cosh at david.george-cosh@wsj.com

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