The long road back to normal EU-US trade relations

The long road back to normal EU-US trade relations

By Luke Vargas   
President Trump greets European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the White House. July 25, 2018. Courtesy: Etienne Ansotte/EC Audiovisual Service
Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald trump

European leaders want President Trump to undo steel and aluminum tariffs against the E.U. as a sign the E.U.-U.S. trade relationship is back on track.

UNITED NATIONS – Two days after President Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made a surprise announcement that an escalating E.U.-U.S. trade war had been put on hold, European officials are still trying to make sense of where the trade relationship stands.

Juncker, a veteran diplomat from Luxembourg who’d made headlines only days before for appearing intoxicated at a welcoming ceremony for President Trump in Brussels, left Washington victorious, having somehow found a trade antidote to counter Trump’s protectionist inclinations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Juncker’s task was aided by color-coded flash cards that presented a simplified case for ditching tariffs.

Juncker’s economic primer surely played a role, but Trump’s trade position had also been softening behind the scenes.

“I think President Trump has been getting a lot of backlash against his threat of trade wars.”

Fred Bergsten is a senior fellow and director emeritus at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“I don’t think it’s so much industry groups as it is the domestic agricultural groups, others in the domestic Trump constituency – average citizens who see the prices of their products going up along with the people whose jobs are jeopardized by export losses.”

The E.U. and U.S. certainly end the week with considerably less daylight between their trade policies, but the road back to normal trade relations is long and fraught with challenges.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday the E.U. won’t cut corners on environmental or foot safety standards by giving in to U.S. demands to import more American agricultural products.

He also added that Europe expects to see Trump drop aluminum and steel tariffs levied on national security grounds. Absent that, all the talk of resuming friendly relations will remain just talk.

“They are looking for rectification, and unless something is done on that, the whole initiative probably will falter.”

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