Mnuchin insists agriculture was part of US-EU trade talks
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Mnuchin insists agriculture was part of US-EU trade talks

WASHINGTON: The US treasury secretary insisted Sunday that agricultural issues were discussed in President Donald Trump's talks last week with Jean-Claude Juncker, contradicting the EU Commission president's account of the negotiations.

US President Donald Trump hosted EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker amid a trade standoff

"I was in the room and we had specific conversations about agriculture and the need to break down the barriers on agriculture and have more opportunities for our farmers," Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday.

Trump had boasted on Thursday before an audience of farmers that "We just opened up Europe for you farmers."

US farmers have been hard hit by China's retaliatory tariffs on US imports, particularly soybeans, so it was important to Trump to shore up support in Republican-leaning farm states.

On Wednesday he moved to ease tensions with the European Union, declaring a truce on that front after meeting with Juncker.

Washington hopes that agreement will open another market for US agricultural exports. But on Friday, Juncker responded through his spokeswoman that agriculture was "not part of it."

"When you read the joint statement ... you will see no mention of agriculture as such, you will see a mention of farmers and a mention of soybeans, which are part of the discussions and we will follow up that," EU Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said.

Asked about the discrepancy, Mnuchin insisted: "We specifically talked about soybeans, but we specifically agreed we would look at these other markets and it was very clear that our objective as part of this whole agreement is the Europeans have to open up more opportunities for our farmers and our agriculture."

Under the agreement, the US is lifting its threat to impose tariffs on European autos as long as negotiations are underway in return for Juncker's promise that Europe would import more US soybeans and natural gas.

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