The European Union’s top trade official said on Thursday that the bloc would be willing to remove all tariffs on cars and other industrial products as part of a limited trade deal with the United States, an apparent shift that may please the Trump administration but could also violate global trade rules.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Cecilia Malmstrom, the European commissioner for trade, told members of the European Parliament that the bloc was willing to reduce “car tariffs to zero, all tariffs to zero if the U.S. does the same.”
“It has to be reciprocal,” she said. “We would do it if they do it. That remains to be seen.”
The European Union had previously expressed a willingness to eliminate tariffs on cars, but only as part of a broad free-trade agreement.
Limiting the scope of a deal might increase the chances that ongoing talks between Brussels and the White House will be a success. But a less ambitious agreement might also run afoul of World Trade Organization rules, which allow bilateral pacts only if they cover the vast majority of trade between the two partners.
There is little anyone could do to block a deal between Europe and the United States, which form the world’s largest trading partnership. Ignoring the rules would, however, erode the authority of the World Trade Organization, which is already under attack by the Trump administration.