European Union willing to discuss cutting trade barriers with US: Merkel

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EU president Donald Tusk yesterday urged leaders meeting in Bulgaria to form a "united European front" against Trump's withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and his move to impose trade tariffs on Europe.

On Wednesday evening in Sofia, EU leaders spent several hours over dinner discussing how to protect the EU's interests, after two recent decisions by U.S. president Donald Trump: scrapping a nuclear deal with Iran and potentially sanction European companies doing business there and threatening to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium from 1 June.

"We have a common position: we want an unlimited exemption, but are then prepared to talk about how we can reciprocally reduce barriers for trade", she told reporters in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron - whose countries are the signatories to the Iran deal along with the US, Russia and China, gave their views on the situation to their colleagues, he said. "There can not be any detailed discussions with the United States unless we first have a permanent exemption", he said.

Earlier, the United States announced the opening of embassies in Jerusalem.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Europeans would not negotiate "with the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads".

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But some diplomats voiced scepticism, saying that trade discussions with Washington would be far from easy. But frankly, European Union should be grateful.

European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the EU was willing to a so-called blocking statute that would make it illegal for European companies to comply with U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran and not recognize U.S. court decisions that enforce American sanctions.

It was also ready to "improve reciprocal market access, for industrial products, including amongst others cars, and liberalisation of public procurement". Most EU countries are US allies in the world's biggest security organization, NATO.

The European leaders said they would be ready to also work with the USA to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO) - a nod to address concerns over Chinese trade practices and over a more technical issue with the WTO's Appellate Body.

It will notify the World Trade Organization of its potential plans by Friday.

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