There's a lot happening behind the scenes to ensure the U.S. and the European Union reach a trade deal, the Dutch prime minister told CNBC Monday.
Both sides of the Atlantic have been at odds regarding international trade ever since President Trump took power in January, 2016. In particular, Trump threatened last year to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on European cars – a highly sensitive topic for European officials. The EU is the largest exporter of motor vehicles in the world, whereas the United States is the largest importer of motor vehicles in the world. Car tariffs could be a massive risk to the European economy.
In an attempt to calm down the trade tensions, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed with President Trump in July last year to put new tariffs aside and to work towards lowering ongoing duties. Earlier last year, the U.S. had raised taxes on steel and aluminium from Europe.
"I am convinced we can get a settlement on this because it is strategically in both our interests," Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, told CNBC.
"Things are happening…I can assure a lot is happening behind the scenes and there is a lot of common trust, common goals on the table because we have to settle this as soon as possible, we don't want to have a full out fight between the U.S. and the EU," he said.
Their deal to work towards reducing taxes to zero brought some relief to the table last year. However, more than six months since their meeting in Washington, it is still unclear what's the way forward.
EU's trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said Friday: "We do have concerns about certain aspects of the trade policy pursued by the current U.S. administration but there is also a strong unanimity that we should have a positive agenda with the U.S., building on the decisions and joint statement that was made when the two presidents…met."
A report published by the European Commission last month showed that there have been a number of meetings between both countries. The same report showed that the EU wants the current talks to be focused on ongoing regulatory cooperation activities, as a starting point.
The same report says that if the U.S. were to impose new tariffs on European cars in the meantime, there would be a huge disruption to their ongoing negotiations.
Rutte also told CNBC that it is in the interest of both countries to bridge their differences.
"I absolutely believe that a transatlantic bond between the U.S. and the EU collectively working on our relationship with China and other world powers is in both of our interests."