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Trump, EU Officials Announce Beef Trade Deal

By Alexandra Alper and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump announced a deal on Friday to sell more American beef to Europe in what was a modest win for an administration that remains mired in a trade war with China.

Trump gathered European Union officials and cowboy-hatted American ranchers in the White House Roosevelt Room to announce the pact.

"The agreement that we sign today will lower trade barriers in Europe and expand access for American farmers and ranchers," Trump said.

He spoke shortly before the agreement was signed by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union's ambassador to the United States and EU representative Jani Raappana.

The European Commission has stressed that any beef deal will not increase overall beef imports and that all the beef coming in would be hormone-free, in line with EU food safety rules. An agreement would need to be approved by the European parliament.

After the agreement was signed, Trump joked at the podium that his administration was working with the EU "on a 25% tariff on all Mercedes-Benz and BMWs coming into our nation."

"So, we appreciate -- I'm only kidding," he said to laughter.

The beef deal could help alleviate some of the damage to the domestic agricultural industry due to tariffs Beijing has imposed on U.S products in retaliation for U.S. levies on China.

Trump said in the first year duty-free U.S. beef exports to the EU will increase by 46% and over seven years will rise another 90%. "In total the duty-free exports will rise from $150 million to $420 million, an increase of over 180%," he said.

Without mentioning China by name, Lambrinidis said the United States and Europe could work together to stand against countries that did not compete fairly in the global market.

"The agreement shows us that as partners we can solve problems," he said.

EU sources and diplomats in June said a deal had been reached to allow the United States a guaranteed share of a 45,000 tonne European Union quota.

The announcement coincides with Trump ratcheting up Washington's trade dispute with China. On Thursday, he said he would impose a 10% tariff on $300 billion of Chinese imports from Sept. 1 and threatened to raise tariffs further if Chinese President Xi Jinping failed to move faster on striking a trade deal.

The dispute between the world's two top economies has hurt world growth, including in Europe, as it enters its second year.

U.S. and European officials have sought to lay the groundwork for talks on their own trade agreement but have been stymied over an impasse on agriculture. European officials last month said trade talks had produced mixed results.

The agreement on beef could, however, ease tensions between the two sides, which are each other's largest trading partners.

The Trump administration has been pursuing a host of new trade deals with Europe, China and others as part of the Republican president's "America First" agenda as he seeks a second term in office, but difficulties in securing final pacts have roiled financial markets.

European stocks on Friday were battered by Trump's latest salvo against China and Wall Street also took a hit.

Lingering issues remain in other areas of U.S.-EU trade, including import duties on industrial goods that Europe wants removed, and the threat of tariffs on European cars imported to the United States. EU governments cleared the agreement on July 15, but it still needs European Parliament approval. (Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal and Jeff Mason in Washington and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels; Editing by Susan Heavey, Grant McCool and Susan Thomas)

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