Friday

13th Dec 2019

Juncker seeks to avoid car tariffs in Trump meeting

  • Juncker (l) to represent EU interests in Washington (Photo: European Commission)

Two top EU officials are in Washington to avert a trade clash on cars, but Donald Trump's tweets bode ill for the meeting.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will meet Trump, the US president, and his treasury chief, Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday (25 July).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • German car makers would be hardest hit (Photo: Audi)

The visit comes after Trump imposed tariffs on EU steel and aluminium, prompting a retaliation on US products, such as whisky and motorcycles.

The fear is that Trump will next impose tariffs on EU car exports, escalating the dispute.

It also comes after Trump called the EU a "foe" on trade, amid wider concern that the White House no longer sees Europe as its strategic ally on the world stage.

The EU commission told press on Monday and Tuesday that Juncker was not going to the US with a new EU offer on trade.

But the EU has in the past floated two ideas to prevent car price wars - getting all big car makers around the world to drop tariffs or agreeing a limited EU-US free trade deal on goods.

"This is an occasion to de-dramatise any potential tensions around trade and engage in an open and constructive dialogue," Juncker's spokesman said on Monday.

"There are no offers. This is a discussion, it is a dialogue and it is an opportunity to talk," the spokesman added.

"We want to diffuse the situation as soon as possible, to de-escalate this before it blows up in our faces, doing harm to the transatlantic relationship, our economies, and the global order," Malmstrom said last week.

Trump noises on the eve of the talks tended in the opposite direction, however.

"Tariffs are the greatest!", he tweeted.

"Countries that have treated us unfairly on trade for years are all coming to Washington to negotiate," he said.

"I have an idea for them. Both the US and the EU drop all tariffs, barriers and subsidies! … Hope they do it, we are ready - but they won't!," he added.

For his part, Germany's foreign affairs minister, Heiko Maas, whose country stands to lose the most in the looming cars clash, also took a firm line.

"We are not heading into negotiations with a pistol at our chest. I don't think threats bring us closer to a solution," he told German public TV station ARD on Tuesday.

"We will not be threatened and climb down so easily … In the end, all sides would lose, also the Americans," he said.

His words echoed French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, who also said over the weekend that the EU would not negotiate "with a gun to our head".

Up to 120,000 US jobs depended on EU car imports, with a tariff war putting these at risk, the EU warned in an 11-page study sent to the US ahead of Wednesday's meeting.

If the dispute escalated, it could also wipe 0.5 percent off global growth, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

That figure could be as high as 2 percent, the Bank of England said.

It would also affect business confidence in open markets for years to come, the British bank chief, Mark Carney, said.

Mr Juncker goes to Washington

European Commission president will meet US president Donald Trump before the end of July to try to "de-dramatise" the tense trade relations.

EU and US kiss and make up on trade

The US will not impose tariffs on EU cars and might take back ones on steel and aluminium, according to a magical Trump-Juncker deal.

Analysis

Did Juncker trick Trump?

The EU commission chief agreed to trade talks even if the US president did not lift tariffs on steel and aluminium. But he avoided tariffs on cars and obtained a commitment to refrain from new unilateral moves.

News in Brief

  1. EU Scream podcast wins media award
  2. Sturgeon will set out Scottish independence plan next week
  3. Slovenia, Croatia ex-leaders highlight jailed Catalans
  4. Italian court tells Facebook to reopen fascist party's account
  5. EU extends sanctions on Russia until mid-2020
  6. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  7. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  8. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality

Feature

Promises and doubts: Africa's free-trade adventure

The EU is hoping that a continent-wide free trade agreement in Africa will help lift millions out of poverty and help solve issues of security and migration. But its message of values and equal partnership do not resonate with everyone.

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU values face scrutiny This WEEK
  2. EU sighs relief after 'decisive' Johnson victory in UK
  3. Huge win for Conservatives in UK election
  4. Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician
  5. Leaders agree 2050 climate neutrality - without Poland
  6. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  7. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  8. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us