EU clears way for start of formal trade talks with U.S.

European Union countries gave initial clearance on Thursday to start formal trade talks with the United States, EU sources said, a move designed but not guaranteed to smooth strained relations between the world’s two largest economies.

The European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 28 member European Union, has sought clearance for two negotiating mandates — one to cut tariffs on industrial goods, the other to make it easier for companies to show products meet EU or U.S. standards.

The Commission presented its mandates in January and found support from most EU members, but not France.