21st Mar 2018

EU to Trump: Protectionism is 'doomed to fail'

  • Commissioner Malmstrom said only an open Europe can be successful

The EU’s trade commissioner has said that new efforts to reimpose trade barriers were "doomed to fail" in reaction to Donald Trump’s U-turn on an Asian deal.

Cecilia Malmstroem, who spoke at a think tank in Brussels on Tuesday (25 January), also said that a world without free trade would be “little short of catastrophic”.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • US president threw out TPP on Monday (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

US president Trump on Monday withdrew from the TPP agreement, a free-trade deal between 11 Pacific region nations.

His decision, as well as his verbal attacks on globalisation, indicated that an EU-US free-trade pact, TTIP, already three-years in the making, would be put on hold, Malmstroem said at the Bruegel Institute think tank.

“The election of Donald Trump seems likely to put our EU-US negotiations firmly in the freezer for at least for a while”, she said.

She said that the EU was pressing ahead in talks on free-trade pacts with some 20 other countries despite the US developments.

"Trump or no Trump, we have a long list of many others willing to deal with the EU,” she said.

Malmstroem also defended the political benefits of free trade in the face of mounting populism in EU states.

"We work together, trade together, and have all seen the benefit from it. The alternative is little short of catastrophic,” she said.

"Those who, in the 21st century, think that we can become great again by rebuilding borders, reimposing trade barriers, restricting people's freedom to move, are doomed to fail," the Swedish politician added.

She said the success of the EU depended on open societies and open economies.

"We have all seen a Europe divided, separated by walls and borders in the 20th century. Those dark years should not return," she said.

Genuine concerns

EU trade policy, in the past the domain of commission wonks, has attracted popular anger at its impact on jobs and social and environmental standards.

Malmstroem acknowledged that anti-globalisation movements had legitimate concerns.

The commissioner said some people might feel that technology and trade-driven globalisation were moving fast. She said many jobs were being replaced by computers due to automatisation.

But she said EU trade policy had become a “handy scapegoat” for national politicians to deflect attention from deeper problems.

She also said that earlier generations had had had to adapt to change.

She defended recent EU trade deals, saying the negotiation process had become more transparent and that it did not lead to any lowering of European regulatory standards.


One bogeyman of anti-free trade groups were international settlement courts were corporations could challenge national authorities’ decisions, but Malmstroem said that an EU-Canada trade pact, Ceta, had a new-model court that was "transparent and predictable".

She recalled that 31 million European jobs depend on exports and that millions of others stemmed from foreign investments in the EU.

The Ceta deal nearly fell by the wayside when it was challenged by Belgium's Walloon region last year.

The mess, which was fixed in the 11th hour, was an embarrassment for the EU on the international stage.

Malmsotroem said the Ceta crisis had come about because national politicians were doing too little to promote free trade at home.

Ceta was given a green light Tuesday in the European Parliament's trade committee, paving the way for it to be ratified in plenary in February.

It will enter into life on a provisional basis, pending full ratification at national level by all 28 EU states.

EU countries agree to reinforce trade defence

After two years of stalled talks, member states decided to keep the current rules on tariffs but to suspend them in case of “state-induced” distortions in raw material and energy.


EU dumping plan could ensure fairer China trade

A European Commission proposal on anti-dumping clears the way for the EU to abide by international obligations and avoid a trade war that would be dangerously counterproductive.

EU ready to challenge US border tax

The EU is willing to fight any attempt by the Trump administration to impose border tax on imports, says jobs commissioner Jyrki Katainen.

UK turns from EU to US in 'new age'

British PM to tell US that the two countries should upgrade their “special relationship” amid plans for early talks on a post-EU trade pact.


The populists may have won, but Italy won't leave the euro

The situation as Rome tries to form a government is turbulent and unpredictable. However, the most extreme eurosceptic policies floated during the election campaign are unlikely to happen - not least due to the precarious state of the Italian banks.


Why has central Europe turned so eurosceptic?

Faced with poorer infrastructure, dual food standards and what can seem like hectoring from western Europe it is not surprising some central and eastern European member states are rebelling.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders expected to approve Brexit future talks guidelines
  2. Tusk: EU must 'continue to engage' with US on trade
  3. European elections set for 23-26 May 2019
  4. EU tries to find common candidate for top UN food job
  5. Facebook post triggers Norway no-confidence vote
  6. Merkel: 'no reason' to sanction Schroeder for Russia support
  7. MEPs and Council strike deal on posted workers' rights
  8. EU parliament to investigate Facebook data 'breach'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverHiring - Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience - Apply Now!
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections