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France and Spain want U.S. action on steel, aluminum tariffs

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French President Emmanuel Macron arrives to visit the Pic du Midi in the Pyrenees mountain at La Mongie today in Bagneres-de-Bigorre, France.


MADRID >> The leaders of France and Spain said they welcomed a trade truce between the United States and Europe called this week, but demanded action today from their ally across the Atlantic to reduce tariffs and rejected negotiating a new trade agreement with the U.S.

“A good trade dialogue can only be based on a balanced, reciprocal basis, but never under any sort of threat,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid.

Macron added that he wanted to see “clear signals on steel and aluminum that are subject of illegal tariffs in the United States.”

The U.S. has imposed tariffs on imports of the metals and threatened to put taxes of 20 to 25 percent on cars, trucks and auto parts imported from the EU, justifying the actions on national-security grounds.

The EU has imposed retaliatory taxes on American-made products.

But on Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to engage in talks that would open markets. The EU also agreed to purchase more soybeans from the U.S. and to build more terminals for imported American liquefied natural gas.

Sanchez said neither France nor Spain were comfortable with the deal’s potential to harm Europe’s common agricultural policy and said they would seek clarification from Juncker, the European Union’s chief trade negotiator.

Macron said the deal eliminates “useless tension,” but also warned that he was against launching negotiations on a vast U.S.-EU trade accord “because the context doesn’t allow it.”

The French president made his first official visit to Spain on today. He and Sanchez have agreed to pursue a joint agenda on expanding the EU’s membership and reaffirmed their shared views on mass migration from northern Africa to Europe.

But both leaders had to field questions about separate scandals that threaten to tarnish their public images.

Macron accused journalists of “stirring a storm in a glass” over his former security aide who was seen beating a protester in video footage published by Le Monde last week.

Prosecutors and French lawmakers have opened a judicial investigation of Alexandre Benalla’s actions at the May 1 demonstration he attended with riot police he was supposed to be observing. Macron’s office has been under attack for not disclosing the incident weeks ago and how Benalla was disciplined before his firing last week.

“Something grave has occurred which was met with an immediate and proportionate response from the Elysee Palace,” Macron said in reference to the home of the French president’s offices. He said he was awaiting a “profound and legal analysis” from the investigations.

Sanchez has faced sharp criticism from the political opposition after his government defended a trip the prime minister took with his wife on the official government jet last week to attend a music festival in the eastern region of Valencia.

The Spanish leader said the controversy was “artificial” and the government’s security department requires the prime minister to travel by plane.

Macron was hosted for dinner by Spain’s King Felipe VI and scheduled to go to Portugal on Friday to meet Prime Minister Antonio Costa and attend a debate on the future of Europe.

Macron and Costa will be later joined by Sanchez and European Commission officials for a mini-summit on energy policy in the region.

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