Italian PM urges quick start to US-EU trade talks

WASHINGTON — Italys recently named prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, called for a quick start to bilateral trade talks between the European Union and the United States that the two sides agreed last week to begin.

“I believe that this understanding is fundamental and we have to work on it immediately, bringing our efforts to make sure European, American, Italian citizens receive the benefit of a more equitable trade relationship which is completely reciprocal,” Conte said Monday via a translator during a White House press conference with President Donald Trump.

Conte was referring to an agreement announced last week by Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to begin talks aimed at eliminating non-auto industrial tariffs, subsidies and non-tariff barriers, as well as potentially other areas to be determined.

Trump also agreed not to impose new tariffs on the EUs auto exports to the United States, as long as the two sides are making progress in the talks.

Trump said that he was hopeful about prospects for the negotiations, even though the EU has “totally taken advantage of the United States” on trade in the past.

“I think theyre going to treat us very fairly, and were going to treat them fairly,” he said Monday.

Juncker and Trump agreed during their meeting on Wednesday to establish a bilateral “executive working group” to fine-tune the parameters for the future talks.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström are expected to lead that effort, with possible help from other officials such as chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and European Commission Secretary-General Martin Selmayr. However, there has been no joint announcement yet of key personnel and dates for the talks.

Trump said he and Conte also discussed expanding commerce between their two countries. He urged Italian companies to invest more in the United States, and U.S. companies to invest more in Italy.

“Its a great place with great people,” Trump said.

Trump said he also expected progress on the bilateral trade deficit with Italy, which totaled $31.5 billion last year.

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