Wilbur Ross says he's 'open to resuming' talks on mega-trade deal with Europe

Key Points
  • Commerce Secretary Ross says he is open to more talks on the TTIP.
  • The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has been on hold since last year.
  • According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. trade deficit with the EU stood at $146.3 billion last year.
Wilbur Ross, U.S. commerce secretary, speaks during the 47th annual Washington Conference on the Americas at the U.S Department of State in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

After a series of angry tweets from President Donald Trump directed toward Germany over trade, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Tuesday he is open to continuing talks on a proposed trade pact with the European Union.

"It's no mistake that, while we withdrew from TPP" — the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact with Pacific Rim nations — "we did not withdraw from TTIP," Ross said.

Talks around the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership were put on hold after Trump's election last year.

"The EU is one of our largest trading partners, and any negotiations legally must be conducted at the EU level and not with individual nations," Ross said. "Thus, it makes sense to continue TTIP negotiations and to work towards a solution that increases overall trade while reducing our trade deficit."

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. trade deficit with the EU in 2016 stood at $146.3 billion. So far in 2017, that deficit is at $32.1 billion.

Secretary Ross' comments come less than a week after his meeting with German Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries, who told a German newspaper, "It is not likely the U.S. will resume negotiations over TTIP."

CNBC has obtained copies of trade deficit data that was given to Ross by the Coalition for a Prosperous America, an anti-free trade think tank, which purports to show the trade deficit the United States has with Germany and with the EU overall.

The coalition, which takes credit on its website for killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, says that its mission is "to fight for balanced trade and to protect U.S. sovereignty."

"Germany's 2016 current account surplus was the biggest in the world in relation to its GDP at 8.5 percent. China's was 3 percent," said Michael Stumo, CEO of the think tank. "Germany overproduces and underconsumes. This means they have an excessive savings rate (27.8 percent) and free ride off the U.S. and other [countries'] consumers to drive their growth."

The TTIP was the focus of widespread public opposition in Germany and elsewhere in Europe last year.

Correction: Michael Stumo is CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America. An earlier version misstated his title.

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