* U.S, EU agreed in July to improve trade ties
* EU trade chief says ball in U.S. court
* Ross says this is inaccurate, Trump’s patience “not unlimited” (Updates with more from Ross, adds Malmstrom)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Oct 17 (Reuters) - The United States demanded rapid results on Wednesday in transatlantic trade talks with the European Union, accusing the bloc of holding up progress, but the top EU trade official said the ball was in Washington’s court.
U.S. President Donald Trump agreed with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in July to refrain from imposing tariffs on EU cars while the two sides launched discussions to remove import duties and improve trade ties.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who held talks with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Tuesday, said that some three months after that pledge there was a “big disconnect” between the two sides.
“Our purpose in the meeting was to stress the need for speed and of getting to near-term deliverables, including both tariff relief and standards,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told a briefing in Brussels on Wednesday.
“What we’re interested in, whether it’s the exact next time or some time shortly thereafter, is we really need tangible progress. The president’s patience is not unlimited,” he said.
Earlier, Malmstrom said the EU had asked the United States several times to start preparatory work for negotiations on a deal to remove tariffs on industrial goods, adding:
“So far the U.S. has not shown any big interest there, so the ball is in their court.”
Ross said Malmstrom’s statement was very weak and implied that Washington had slowed things down. “That’s simply inaccurate,” he said.
“This is not meant to be a five-year project. This is meant to be something that was to move quickly and in a cooperative fashion,” he said, adding that standards were as much of a barrier to trade as tariffs.
The July statement issued by Trump and Juncker referred to a goal of zero tariffs and non-tariff barriers on non-auto industrial goods, as well as a close dialogue on standards to ease trade.
The European Commission has said agriculture was not part of the planned talks, but the U.S. ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, said this was not Washington’s view.
“Agriculture was definitely discussed on July 25 as one category and it was the full expectation of the president that it would be discussed in the final negotiations.” he said. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Francesco Guarascio and Gareth Jones)