Europe considers ‘new base’ for its trade relations with the United States
EU trade ministers will explore a post-Trump reshuffle in transatlantic trade relations in virtual talks with new US trade representative Katherine Tai.
The meeting comes days after the announcement of a partial truce in a three-year steel dispute with the United States, with the European Union declaring on Monday that it would not impose retaliatory tariffs for now. on more American products.
“We have the opportunity to create a new basis for world trade policy with the new US administration,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said ahead of the talks.
EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis said it was important for the United States to remove tariffs on EU steel and aluminum imports by the end of the year.
While US President Joe Biden has made it clear that he remains focused on protecting American jobs, European officials hope his arrival will make trade relations with the United States more predictable than during Donald Trump’s volatile presidency.
A sign of this possible deal came this week when the Biden administration lifted sanctions on the company behind Russia’s Berlin-backed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.
Still, the US president is under heavy domestic pressure not to give in too much: steel industry groups and the steelworkers union this week urged him to maintain Trump’s import tariffs on steel, claiming that they had proven to be successful.
“Eliminating steel tariffs now would jeopardize the viability of our industry,” wrote executives of the American Iron and Steel Institute, the Steel Manufacturers Association, the United Steelworkers and other groups.
For now, the United States will maintain its tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. These duties also apply to imports from China, India, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Japan and South Korea, among other metal-exporting countries.
One area of emerging consensus between the EU and the US is the need for a tougher line on China. The partial truce included a joint statement on the need to “hold countries like China to account for supporting policies that distort trade.”
It comes as European Parliament lawmakers are expected to agree later Thursday that China must lift sanctions against European Union politicians and diplomats to save a newly created investment deal with Europe.
Beijing’s punitive measures, blocking travel to China and doing business with its companies, were imposed in March in response to Western sanctions against Chinese officials accused of mass detention of Muslim Uyghurs in northwest China.
European lawmakers say Chinese sanctions are not based on international law, while the bloc’s measures tackle human rights violations confirmed in United Nations treaties. Beijing denies any wrongdoing.
Despite all the tensions, Germany had earlier announced that exports to China in April rose 16.3% year-on-year to 8.4 billion euros. He also said exports to the United States had jumped by more than 60% to € 10.1 billion during the same period, underscoring the importance of trade for Europe’s largest economy.
Source: Reuters (written by Mark John; edited by Toby Chopra)