Ross open to reviving US, EU trade deal

Ross open to reviving US, EU trade deal
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Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossChina state media accuses US of seeking to 'colonize global business' China accuses US of 'rumors' and 'lies' about Huawei government ties Weather forecasters predict up to 15 major storms this hurricane season MORE said Tuesday he is open to reviving a trade agreement with the European Union.

Ross said the United States is examining whether to restart the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, which stalled out last year amid the the United Kingdom's vote to leave the 28-nation European Union. 

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"It's no mistake that, while we withdrew from TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] we did not withdraw from TTIP," Ross told CNBC. 

The U.S. and EU launched trade talks in July 2013 and made gradual progress until the end of President Obama's second term.  

"The EU is one of our largest trading partners, and any negotiations legally must be conducted at the EU level and not with individual nations," Ross told CNBC.

"Thus, it makes sense to continue TTIP negotiations and to work towards a solution that increases overall trade while reducing our trade deficit," he said. 

President Trump directed his trade ire toward Germany in a tweet over the weekend, vowing to remedy a “massive” deficit with Berlin. 

Overall, in 2016, the U.S. trade deficit with the EU was $146.3 billion, and through March the imbalance stands at $32.1 billion, according to Commerce Department figures.

While the Obama administration and the EU said they had made “considerable progress” in negotiating an agreement, the future of the pact  was left in limbo after Trump's election. The Trump administration has said they prefer to pursue bilateral agreements.

Ross met last week with German Economic Minister Brigitte Zypries, who had said she would not lobby U.S. officials to relaunch the TTIP talks.

But there have been mixed messages out of Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Trump during her March visit to the United States to resume TTIP negotiations.

Then over the weekend, Merkel made stunning remarks while on the campaign trail about the strength of the long-time partnership between the U.S., Germany and the European bloc after attending the NATO and Group of Seven summits with Trump. 

“The times when we could fully count on others are over to a certain extent," Merkel said. "I have experienced this in the last few days," she said.

“We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands,” she said.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer stressed that Trump “views not just Germany but the rest of Europe as an important American ally.”

In April, Ross told the Financial Times that he was open to reviving negotiations but at the time said that the EU may have to compete with other nations such as Japan for a deal with the new administration. 

The three big [economies] that are the sources of our trade deficit outside of [the North American Free Trade Agreement] are China, Japan and Europe. So it is logical that  ...  one should focus on Europe,” Ross told the FT in that interview.