Two weeks after reaching a handshake agreement to calm trade talks and back off new tariffs, the United States and European Union are beginning to lay the formal groundwork underpinning any deal.
On Tuesday, the State Department sent a cable to U.S. embassies across Europe, directing them to identify business areas ripe for lowering of tariffs or cutting of red tape, according to a readout of the cable provided to CNBC. The communication placed particular emphasis on deals that would increase U.S. energy and soybean exports, two areas highlighted in a joint statement the U.S. and the EU put out following the July 25 meeting.
One of the ideas that had been discussed is potential American involvement in a Russian natural gas pipeline into Germany that President Donald Trump had criticized. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Trump at the White House last month that "most" EU countries disagreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to broker the deal with Russia, according to a senior administration official.
The State Department declined to comment, citing a policy not to confirm or deny internal communications. But the move represents an effort to source deliverables for talks set to take place when a delegation from the European Union visits Washington later this month.
Juncker and high-level U.S. counterparts have been discussing additional meetings to take place in the coming weeks, an EU spokesperson told CNBC. In the meantime, Juncker's senior trade advisor and an unnamed senior EU trade official will visit Washington on Aug. 20 to "flesh out the ideas that are being exchanged."
Business executives dining with Trump at his Bedminster, N.J., property on Tuesday evening peppered Trump with questions about the status of various trade negotiations. According to attendees, he demurred on China ("It's really hard to get to a deal," one attendee paraphrased him as saying) but pivoted to Canada, Mexico and Europe, citing "good discussions with the EU" led by top Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow.