EU strikes deal with US to halt new tariffs, but questions remain

EPA-EFE/JIM LO SCALZO

US President Donald J. Trump (R) and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L) walk down the Colonnade in the Rose Garden of the the White House in Washington, July 25, 2018.

EU strikes deal with US to halt new tariffs, but questions remain


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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker struck a deal with US President Donald J. Trump to suspend new tariffs while negotiating several rounds of robust trade deals that would pull the two traditional Western allies back from the brink of an unprecedented and equally devasting trade war that appeared all but a certainty in the lead-up to Juncker’s meeting with the mercurial American president.

Juncker and Trump agreed to expand European imports of US liquified natural gas and soybeans and jointly lower industrial tariffs, according to the White House’s statement following the meeting. Brussels followed up with a statement saying that Trump promised to  “hold off on other tariffs” while trade negotiations remain ongoing between the two sides.

“This was a very big day for free and fair trade, very big day, indeed,” Trump said at a press conference at the end of the meeting where Europe’s Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmstrom, along with several other trade experts from both sides of the Atlantic took part. in an effort “to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans; soybeans is a big deal”, as the EU will become “a massive buyer” of liquefied natural gas from the US, Trump said.

“The United States and the European Union together count more than 830 million citizens and more than 50% of global GDP. If we team up, we can make our planet a better, more secure, and more prosperous place,” Trump said, adding, “Already today, the United States and the European Union have a $1 trillion bilateral trade relationship.”

“This is why we agreed today, first of all, to work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods. We will also work to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans,” said Juncker, who also added that the two sides agreed to re-examine the US’ steel and aluminium tariffs and the retaliatory duties imposed by the EU “in due course”.

In what appeared to be a more conciliatory tone, Trump said he was willing to “try to resolve” the ongoing conflict over steel and aluminium tariffs that he imposed earlier this year and would be ready to work with Brussels to reform the World Trade Organization.

The two sides agreed on launching “a close dialogue on standards in order to ease trade, reduce bureaucratic obstacles, and slash costs while working in tandem to protect American and European companies better from unfair global trade practices.

“This will open markets for farmers and workers, increase investment, and lead to greater prosperity in both the United States and the European Union. It will also make trade fairer and more reciprocal,” said Trump.

The second part of the agreement focused on energy, with the EU  saying it “wants” to import more LNG from the United States as a way to diversify its energy supply away from Russia.

While the deal between the two sides appears to an encouraging sign as it will help quell speculation that a trade war, which had the potential to severely cripple a global economic upswing, is imminent. The agreement, however, could embolden Trump and his often bullying behaviour as it may convince the erratic US president, who recently labelled the European Union ‘a foe’, that he has found a successful formula to cajole trade partners into buying more US goods by threating and punishing them with a series of hostile tariffs.

In a meeting with his cabinet last week, Trump said he would move forward with a 25% auto tariffs if the meeting with Juncker didn’t go well and said he is still considering the possibility of imposing tariffs on European cars based on national security grounds once US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wraps up his investigation.

If imposed, Trump’s tariffs would cause the sticker price of a European-built car sold in the US to increase by an estimated €10,000 ($11,800).

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