U.S. President Donald Trump has announced a deal to sell more American beef to Europe, a modest win for an administration that remains mired in a trade war with China, but he said tariffs on European auto exports remain a possibility.
The European Commission has stressed that any beef deal will not increase overall beef imports and that all the beef coming in would be hormone-free, in line with EU food safety rules.
The deal needs European Parliament approval.
Lower Trade Barriers
"The agreement that we sign today will lower trade barriers in Europe and expand access for American farmers and ranchers," Trump said at a gathering of European Union officials and cowboy-hatted American ranchers in the White House Roosevelt Room for the announcement.
The agreement was then signed by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union's ambassador to the United States and EU representative Jani Raappana.
Trump joked that his administration was working with the EU "on a 25% tariff on all Mercedes-Benz and BMWs coming into our nation."
"So, we appreciate - I'm only kidding," he said to laughter.
But talking to reporters later, he said imposing the tariffs on European autos remained a possibility.
"Auto tariffs are never off the table," Trump said. "If I don't get what I want, I'll have no choice but maybe to do that. But so far they've been very good."
The beef deal could help alleviate some of the damage to the domestic agricultural industry because of tariffs Beijing has imposed on U.S products in retaliation for U.S. levies on China.
Trump said in the first year duty-free U.S. beef exports to the EU will increase by 46% and over seven years will rise 90% further. "In total the duty-free exports will rise from $150 million to $420 million, an increase of over 180%," he said.
Without mentioning China by name, Lambrinidis said the United States and Europe could work together to stand against countries that did not compete fairly in the global market.
"The agreement shows us that as partners we can solve problems," he said.
EU sources and diplomats in June said a deal had been reached to allow the United States a guaranteed share of a 45,000 tonne European Union quota.
There are 17 U.S. slaughterhouses approved to export beef to Europe, run by companies including Tyson Foods Inc, National Beef Packing Company, Greater Omaha Packing and JBS USA's Swift Beef Company, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture records.
Opportunities for U.S. meat producers to export beef to the EU under the quota have been inconsistent as other suppliers such as Australia, Uruguay and Argentina have been approved to ship under the quota.