Brussels Suffers From Trump’s Trade Tantrums

Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump hugs American flag at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) annual meeting at National Harbor near Washington, U.S., March 2, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo)

Members of the European Union are divided on whether to hold trade talks with United States President Donald Trump or not. Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union's trade commissioner, believes that the union's credibility is at risk unless it stands firm to its commitment in 2018 to enter into negotiations with the United States on lowering tariffs. The commissioner believes that to disagree to hold the talks would be an embarrassment for Brussels.

The members of the European Union are concerned of the circulating news that indicates that a European Union-United States trade conflict might be in cards when the continent is already vulnerable from weak growth and political peril. According to reports, Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament (EP) voted against resuming transatlantic talks with the United States and reducing the imposed tariffs on the number of industrial duties that the union faces following the tariff tantrum of Trump in 2018.

Last year, Trump and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker reached an agreement to temporarily suspend tariff impositions. It was followed by a meeting between European and trade representatives from the United States in Washington last week where they had a disagreement on key agricultural trade policies. The United States forces the European Union to purchase more agricultural products which caused a major source of friction.

Trump imposed tariffs on some of its trading partners last year including the European Union and China. China is the biggest buyer of United States' agricultural products and because of the on-going trade friction between them, its import became limited.

On her statement to the European Parliament on Wednesday, Ms. Malmstorm said that a delay in the adoption of the mandate risks initiating an unconstructive cycle of exchanges and allegations about the EU's commitment. Reports are circulating that advisers of the Trump Administration urge the president to ramp up his trade threats against Europe.

Some members of the European Parliament, however, believe that the talks themselves are the real threat to the European Union's international credibility. Some members reminded Ms. Malmstrom of the territory Brussels has already agreed upon which included the dropping of the United States imposed tariffs on European Union Steel before the start of the negotiations. They also stood firm in their decisions that trade deals can only be done with countries committed to the Paris climate deal.

Bernd Lange, the Chairman of the parliament's international trade committee, said that what they've seen is a whole set of concessions made by the European Union to the United States, and she can't see the concessions from the United States.

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