By John S. McClenahen Now under way: transatlantic free trade without the U.S. Talk of a transatlantic free-trade agreement between the U.S. and the 15-nation European Union (EU) remains just that -- talk. One reason: The two sides continue to be deeply divided by seemingly trivial disputes over beef and bananas. Meanwhile, the EU and Mexico, one of the two U.S. partners in NAFTA, have opened a transatlantic free-trade zone of their own. By the year 2007, 96% of all EU-Mexico trade will be liberalized, with the vast majority of tariffs on industrial products being dismantled by New Year's Day of 2003. Indeed, Mexican tariffs have already been lifted on imports of EU-made engines, telecommunications equipment, medical equipment, some electronics parts, and some pharmaceuticals. Duties had run as much as 20%. The tariff on cars has been cut to 3.3% from 20%, with the duty slated to disappear in 2003. Also by 2003, the year when trade in industrial goods is scheduled to be fully liberalized within the three NAFTA nations (the U.S., Canada, and Mexico), all Mexican exports will enter the EU duty free, and EU exports to Mexico will face a maximum tariff of only 5%.