EU agrees to start trade talks with US despite France's opposition

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

European Union countries on Monday gave the final green light for Brussels to open trade talks with Washington, despite France's opposition, several EU sources told AFP.

The EU's 28 member states had struggled for months to agree on a mandate to open trans-Atlantic talks, with some fearing the delay would restart a trade war with US President Donald Trump.

EU sources said France voted against the mandate and Belgium abstained during a meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg.

Pursuing a limited trade deal is a key element of a truce negotiated in July that came close to imploding last week after the US threatened $11 billion in fresh trade tariffs against Europe.

Paris voted against the mandate worried about domestic blowback just months ahead of European elections, set for May 23 to 26.

French President Emmanuel Macron has insisted on the US first signing back up to the Paris climate accord after Trump dumped the pact in 2017, infuriating Macron.

But only a qualified majority of EU members was needed to support the talks, meaning France's "non" remained largely symbolic.

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