EU debates how and when to start trade talks with Trump

Germany, whose exports of cars and car parts to the United States are worth more than half of the EU total, is keen to press ahead with the trade negotiations. (AFP)
Updated 22 February 2019

EU debates how and when to start trade talks with Trump

  • The US and Europe ended a stand-off of several months last July
  • The EU is looking now to start negotiations on tariff reductions, possibly including cars

BUCHAREST: European ministers will begin debating on Friday how and when to start trade negotiations with the United States, aware that US President Donald Trump may impose punitive tariffs on EU car imports if the bloc waits too long.
The European Commission has asked the EU’s 28 countries to approve two negotiating mandates so that formal talks can begin. Germany is keen to start as soon as possible, while France is reluctant to engage with Trump.
The United States and Europe ended a stand-off of several months last July, when Trump agreed to hold off on car tariffs while the two sides looked to improve trade ties.
They committed to work toward removing tariffs on “non-auto industrial goods,” discuss ways to agree on product standards to boost trade and increase EU imports of US soybeans and liquefied natural gas.
The EU is looking now to start negotiations on tariff reductions, possibly including cars, as well as a separate set of talks on making it easier for companies to clear their products for sale on both sides of the Atlantic.
The ministers in Romania will face three questions.
The first concerns timing. Germany, whose exports of cars and car parts to the United States are worth more than half of the EU total, is keen to press ahead, but France is hesitant of moving before European Parliament elections in May.
The second question is whether to include fisheries, which is technically an industrial good. Some countries, such as France again, are concerned about increased competition in the sector, which is already strained by Brexit.
The third question is what to do about the previous broader “TTIP” negotiations, which drew thousands to streets in Europe in protest. The Commission has insisted the slimmed-down trade deal it is proposing is not a TTIP relaunch. One option to make that clear could be to formally end TTIP.
Industrial good tariffs are already low, at around 4 percent.
However, the Commission has said that removing them would boost EU exports to the United States by 8 percent and US exports to the European Union by 9 percent by 2033, corresponding to extra exports of respectively €27 billion and €26 billion ($29.5 billion).


Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

Updated 59 min 25 sec ago

Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

  • Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence

DUBAI: Gulf Marine Services said on Wednesday Chief Executive Officer Duncan Anderson has resigned as the oilfield industry contractor warned a reassessment of its ships and contracts showed profit would fall this year, kicking its shares 12 percent down.

The Abu Dhabi-based offshore services specialist said a review by new finance chief Stephen Kersley of its large E-class vessels operating in Northwest Europe and the Middle East pointed to 2019 core earnings of between $45 million and $48 million, below $58 million that it reported last year.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Anderson, who has served as CEO for 12 years, was asked to step down. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

The company, which in the past predominantly operated in the UAE, expanded operations and deployed large vessels in the North Sea and Saudi Arabia nine years ago and listed its shares in London in 2014.

Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence.

The North Sea has seen a revival in production in recent years due to new fields coming on line and improved performance by operators following the 2014 oil price collapse.

Still, the basin’s production is expected to decline over the next decade, according to Britain’s Oil and Gas Authority.

“(The CFO’s) review has coincided with a pause in renewables-related self-propelled self-elevating support vessels activity in the North Sea, which will impact several of the higher day-rate E-Class vessels,” Investec wrote in a note.

Gulf Marine appointed industry veteran Kersley as chief financial officer in late May as it sought to halt a slide which has seen the company’s shares fall nearly 80 percent last year and another 23 percent so far this year.

The company said market conditions remained challenging and that it was still in talks with its financial advisors regarding a new capital structure.

“Management, the new board and the group’s advisors, have been in negotiation with the group’s banks on resetting its capital structure and progress has been made,” it said in a statement.

Last year, Gulf Marine said contracts were delayed into 2019 as the company was seen to be in breach of certain banking covenants at the end of 2018.

The company said it was still in talks with its banks and individual lenders with hopes of getting a waiver or an agreement to amend the concerned covenants.