But there is clearly a long way to go before an accommodation with Washington can be reached, particularly as foreign ministers have insisted that any deal with the US should be “at least equivalent” to that concluded with Russia and Canada.An official at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which campaigned for EU governments to reject the Canada/Russia accord, suggested the Commission was far from out of the woods. “We could still end up with the worst of both worlds; a bad agreement with Canada and Russia and a trade war with the US,” she said.Washington has threatened immediate action in the World Trade Organisation if the EU implements a ban on its lucrative fur exports.The US argues that the federal government does not have the authority to conclude such a deal over the heads of the individual states and – even more crucially – it refuses to accept the automatic prohibition of the jaw-type leghold traps at a certain date, as is written into the agreement with the other two countries.Washington insists the rules for leghold traps should be the same as for all other types – that they should only be phased out if they fail tests for humaneness, and viable alternatives can be found. US officials reject suggestions that the deal with Canada and Russia will necessarily force Washington to be more flexible. “We are eager to talk, but there does not seem to be much room for compromise,” said one.Commission sources believe one way out would be to begin testing in the expectation that leghold traps would fail to reach the standard. But a US diplomat said: “It’s a nice thought, but there are many species covered by the agreement and it will take a long time. Apart from anything else, I’m not sure alternatives exist.” But serious talks will not start until the beginning of September, by which time the clock will be ticking towards a ban on fur imports from the US.The list of countries exempted from the terms of the 1991 import ban is due to be published on 6 September. Any country not listed, including the US at the moment, will face a ban three months later.“We decided not to publish the list of exempted countries straight away as a signal that we wanted to sort something out with the Americans,” said a senior Commission official. If transatlantic talks fail, the Commission is more optimistic about defending its stance in the WTO now that rules have been internationally recognised. “The fact that a standard now exists means this is no longer comparable with the US Helms-Burton legislation,” said a trade official.