EU sets out plans for ‘limited’ US trade deal

EU governments were shell-shocked last year when US President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on metals imports as part of his ‘America First’ protectionist vision. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019
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EU sets out plans for ‘limited’ US trade deal

  • Negotiating a trade deal was included in a transatlantic truce secured last year
  • EU governments were shell-shocked last year when Trump imposed tariffs on metals imports as part of his ‘America First’ vision

BUSSELS: The EU on Friday published its negotiating plans for a free trade deal with the US, part of an effort to avert a trade war with US President Donald Trump.
Negotiating a trade deal was included in a transatlantic truce secured last year after the US slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU, alarming the world.
The effort is also part of an effort to stop Trump from slapping tariffs on European car imports, a danger that has especially unnerved export powerhouse Germany.
“It is not a traditional (trade deal)... it is a limited but important proposal engaged on industrial goods tariffs only,” EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told reporters.
The process however has got off to a rocky start, with the US side last week including agricultural products in their plans, which is an absolute no-go for the Europeans.
“In this mandate, we are not proposing any reduction of tariffs on agriculture. That area was left outside,” Malmstrom insisted.
The 17-page mandate submitted by the US also included other demands and charges that are unacceptable for the EU, including that Europe stop manipulating foreign exchange rates.
Given the split, the EU is entering the negotiations with trepidation, especially since the threat of auto duties is still very much alive in Washington.
The commission handles trade negotiations for the EU’s 28 member states and the plans must now be approved by the national governments before negotiations actually start with Washington.
Brussels and member states are wary after the failure of the so-called TTIP talks, a far more ambitious transatlantic trade plan which stalled amid fears a deal with Washington would undermine EU food and health standards.
Opposition by activists has already resurfaced with Friends of the Earth Europe warning that “there can be no trade-offs on food standards” in the deal.
EU governments were shell-shocked last year when Trump imposed tariffs on metals imports as part of his “America First” protectionist vision.
Brussels responded by slapping counter-tariffs on more than $3 billion in US exports like bourbon, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
But Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in July called a truce, agreeing that as both sides pursued a trade deal, neither would impose additional tariffs.


Germany sees ‘most difficult part’ in EU-US trade talks ahead

Updated 19 February 2019
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Germany sees ‘most difficult part’ in EU-US trade talks ahead

  • ‘For some weeks and months now, we’re observing with concern that the US is tightening its trade policies, that tensions are increasing’
  • ‘The impact can already be seen in the world economy, global growth has slowed’

BERLIN: The most difficult part in trade negotiations between Europe and the United States is starting now and talks should focus on reducing tariffs on industrial goods to increase the chances of a deal, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Tuesday.
A confidential US Commerce Department report sent to President Donald Trump over the weekend is widely expected to clear the way for him to threaten tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported autos and auto parts by designating the imports a national security threat.
“For some weeks and months now, we’re observing with concern that the US is tightening its trade policies, that tensions are increasing,” Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio.
“The impact can already be seen in the world economy, global growth has slowed,” Altmaier said.
Asked about the risk of higher US car tariffs, Altmaier said he did not buy the argument that imported cars would threaten the national security of the United States.
Altmaier, a confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that reducing tariffs on cars and other manufactured goods should be the main focus of the ongoing trade talks.
“We are not yet where we want to be. We might have made one-third of the way and the most difficult part will be now,” Altmaier said.
Altmaier added that he was in favor of reducing import tariffs for cars to the same level in the US and Europe, “ideally to zero percent.”
The trade talks will also be high on the agenda during a meeting of Altmaier with his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Berlin later on Tuesday.
Both ministers are expected to narrow differences on how far the negotiation mandate of the European Commission in the talks with the US should go and which areas should be excluded.
France is reluctant to open up its agriculture sector to US imports and Altmaier said he was fine with excluding the issue in the trade talks.
“Agriculture is a very sensitive topic, so we don’t want to talk about this in the current situation,” Altmaier said.
Altmaier and Le Maire are expected to hold a news conference after the talks.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper that Trump had promised him he would not impose additional import tariffs on European cars for the time being.
If Trump imposed tariffs on European cars, however, the EU would react immediately and not feel obliged to stick to its promise to buy more soybeans and liquefied gas from the United States, Juncker added.