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Commerce secretary: US open to trade talks with Europe

The Trump administration is open to continuing discussions with the European Union regarding a potential trade agreement, according to a May 30 report from CNBC.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC that the U.S. has not withdrawn from the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP, discussions that began four years ago. He also reportedly said that any negotiations must be done at the EU level rather than with individual countries.

"It makes sense to continue T-TIP negotiations and to work towards a solution that increases overall trade while reducing our trade deficit," Ross told CNBC in what the network called an "exclusive."

A U.S. Commerce Department official told S&P Global Market Intelligence that he had just been made aware of the interview and that the department had no further information available.

Then-president Barack Obama, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced the start of T-TIP negotiations in June 2013.

T-TIP sets out to break down trade barriers, including customs duties, between the U.S. and Europe, a potential agreement that advocates said could open up new supply chain avenues for retailers.

Under T-TIP, the U.S. would eliminate or reduce nontariff barriers that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said decreases U.S. competitiveness and market opportunities for U.S. exports. The office also said it hopes to establish rules of origin that ensure duty rates only apply to qualifying U.S. and EU goods under any trade agreement.

Eliminating remaining duties on textile and apparel exports will help create a path for U.S. products into European supply chains, according to the U.S. trade representative.

The announcement comes after a recent exchange of words over trade between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump tweeted on May 30 that the U.S. has a "massive" trade deficit with Germany, which, he said, pays far less than it should on NATO. He called it "very bad" for the U.S., adding that it will change. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the trade deficit with the EU stands at $32.1 billion year-to-date.

Germany's economic minister, Brigitte Zypries, told German newspaper Handelslatt Global on May 24 that it is "not likely" that the U.S. will resume negotiations over T-TIP. However, Ross' comments to CNBC seem to contradict that notion. Ross met with Zypries earlier in May.