While announcing its agreement to hold trade negotiations with the United States, the European Union has also warned that it would stop the talks if any new tariffs were imposed by US President Donald Trump or if the Trump administration did not withdraw the already imposed higher tariffs on European steel and aluminium. These preconditions for trade talks were strictly communicated by the EU on Monday.
The EU has not included agriculture in the negotiations but would readily negotiate with the US on removal of import tariffs on industrial goods and for the establishment of joint standards for the testing, inspection and certification of new products – which were approved by the EU ministers.
The two sides had halted imposition of further tariffs and hold trade talks in a truce agreed to last year and the EU is hopeful that it would be able to impress upon Trump not to impose high tariffs on cars and car parts exported to the US from Europe.
“With today’s adoption of the negotiating directives for trade talks, the EU is delivering on what Donald Trump and I have agreed” last year, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wrote on Twitter, adding that “slashing tariffs on industrial products could lead to additional increase in EU and U.S. exports worth €26 billion.”
The negotiations could allow the two sides “to avoid a potentially damaging trade war and end a self-defeating cycle of measures and countermeasures,” said EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström.
Trade talks with the US would be3 cancelled by Brussels if the U.S. adopts “new measures against the European Union under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962” – the US legislation that is being threatened to be used by Trump to impose tariffs on European cars and auto parts, the EU directives explicitly stressed.
Additionally, the directives said that if the United States imposes tariffs under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act “or under any other similar United States law,” the Commission “may” also suspend negotiations. The regulations under Section 301 is also being touted to be used by Trump against the EU over his allegations that this traditional trading partner of the US has imposed a ban on beef injected with hormones and has opposed US allegations of Europe subsidizing the airplane maker Airbus.
The directives said that “prior to the conclusion of negotiations”, the “prior to the conclusion of negotiations,” should also be removed by the US.
“The EU governments ignore all criticism of the mandates … without being even half sure that serious negotiations can take place at all,” said Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer. “The starting positions are very far apart.”
While admitting that the negotiations “will not be easy”, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said that there is also optimism about the talks.
“Now the ball is in the court of the U.S. to see when can we start,” she told reporters in Brussels. “If we agree to start, I think we can go quite quickly,” Malmström said on Monday.
She added that “from our side, we are definitely determined to do everything we can to finish this under the Juncker Commission,” which is in office until the end of October.
(Adapted from Politico.eu)