As Trump takes aim at EU trade, European officials brace for fight
An emboldened President Donald Trump has set his sights on restructuring the more than $1 trillion U.S. trade relationship with the European Union, raising the specter of another major trade war as the global economy slows and he seeks re-election.
Trump, who recently signed a Phase 1 trade deal that cooled a bitter trade war with China, has called the EU’s position on trade “worse than China” and threatened to impose tariffs on its cars and other products.
European officials say they’re willing to work with Trump to address some irritants in the relationship, but they warn that they’ll retaliate against any U.S. efforts to punish the trading bloc.
“In the economic realm, we’re evenly matched. And we will defend ourselves,” Norbert Roettgen, a senior German conservative lawmaker, said on Friday after meetings with White House and State Department officials. “We will respond to U.S. tariffs, and we know how to structure them to be effective.”
On Friday, two days after Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, the United States ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, said he was being recalled from his post, making the path of any future negotiations even more uncertain. Sondland had testified during the impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The near-term outcome may be a “mini-deal” like the Phase 1 agreement signed with Beijing last month that doesn’t solve bedrock issues but will allow both sides to declare a truce, trade experts say.
DISPUTES AND DEFICITS
The United States, the world’s largest importer, and the 27-member block EU face entrenched conflicts over airline subsidies, agricultural trade barriers, and EU plans to tax big U.S. digital companies, among other issues.
The EU was the top U.S. export market in 2018, before the United Kingdom left the bloc, led by aerospace products and computers. After scotching a free-trade agreement with Europe, the Trump administration is focused on shrinking its growing deficit in goods, which hit here a record $178 billion in 2019.
“That can’t continue,” United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer said in December…….read more