Trump, Juncker agree to defuse trade dispute

AFP
US President Donald Trump and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday agreed on a plan to defuse the festering trade dispute between the two major economies.
AFP

US President Donald Trump and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday agreed on a plan to defuse the festering trade dispute between the two major economies.

Germany’s economy minister described the agreement, which means Washington will not follow through with a threat to impose tariffs on autos that would hurt the dominant German car industry, as a “breakthrough” that “can avoid trade war.”

The pair, who met for more than two hours of talks at the White House, said they would work to “resolve” the existing duties on steel and aluminum imposed by Washington, which had angered key allies including the European Union.

“We want to further strengthen this trade relationship to the benefit of all American and European citizens,” Trump said in a statement delivered from the White House Rose Garden.

“A breakthrough has been quickly made that nobody thought possible!” he wrote on Twitter, later adding: “Great to be back on track with the European Union. This was a big day for free and fair trade!”

The outcome seemed a victory for Trump, who had assured supporters that his confrontational trade strategy would bear fruit, and who appears to have conceded little in the talks with the EU.

The leaders agreed to “launch a new phase” in the relationship and “to work together towards zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods,” Trump said.

In addition, the EU has made a commitment to buy US soybeans and natural gas.

Juncker, who had been somewhat defiant ahead of the meeting, said afterwards: “I had the intention to make a deal today. And we made a deal today.”

However, the deal was contingent “on the understanding that as long as we are negotiating... we will hold off further tariffs, and we will reassess existing tariffs on steel and aluminum.”

While EU officials had threatened immediate retaliation to any auto tariffs, and said they would not negotiate under duress, they seem to have decided to appease the irascible US leader.

“Congrats to @JunckerEU, @realDonaldTrump: Breakthrough achieved that can avoid trade war & save millions of jobs! Great for global economy!” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Twitter.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who accompanied Juncker, hailed the agreement and said on Twitter that she “will be working hard to take this work forward the coming months.”

The details and mechanisms as well as the timing remain to be worked out, and the impact may not be seen for some time. Juncker said the EU already imports 35 percent of its natural gas from US producers, but will work to buy more.

While the US president can claim his aggressive approach is working, consumers, farmers and businesses are feeling the pain from the retaliatory measures imposed to counter the raft of US tariffs on steel, aluminum, and tens of billions of dollars in products from China put in place in recent weeks.

Brussels retaliated against the metal tariffs, imposing punitive duties on more than US$3 billion of US goods, including blue jeans, bourbon and motorcycles, as well as orange juice, rice and corn.

(AFP) 




Special Reports
Top