Austria Presidency pushes for dialogue on US-EU trade dispute

US President Donald J. Trump (L) talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R), at a G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, 8 July 2017. [Felipe Trueba/ EPA]

Austria’s EU Presidency is committed to preserving EU unity on the US trade dispute during its mandate but wants the European Commission to prioritise a transatlantic dialogue and avoid escalation.

“At the end of the day, what is important is not what someone says in a tweet but rather in what state companies actually find themselves,” Margarete Schramböck, Austria’s economic minister told a press briefing in Vienna.

At this stage, even with a pending investigation on whether automotive parts and imports impair US national security, Austria believes it is time for “building bridges, for dialogue”.

Summit conclusions detail reform plan for WTO to please Trump

The EU leaders agreed “in substance” on Thursday (28 June) on a set of proposals to improve the World Trade Organisation, which should pave the way for finding common ground with US President Donald Trump and de-escalating the ongoing trade dispute. But Italy blocked their formal adoption until the migration issue was fully addressed.

“In the case of aluminium and steel, we proved that we were able to react but we are now in a different phase,” Schramböck stated.

The minister put all her hopes on Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who will be travelling later this month to Washington to seek a solution to the potential trade war between the US and the EU.

Trump threatens 20% levy on all European cars

US President Donald Trump threatened on Friday (22 June) to impose a 20% import tariff on all cars manufactured in the EU if recent sanctions the bloc slapped on Washington are not “broken down and removed”, continuing the tit for tat trade war with America’s nominal allies.

But if the Trump administration decides to hit European cars, there will be consequences. “We will react with countermeasures because we need to protect our industry,” Schramböck warned. “I have the feeling that we stand together as one on this,” she said.

Last Friday (29 June), the Commission sent its response to the ongoing US investigation and warned that the US could face countermeasures worth $294 billion from its global trade partners if Trump decided to pass further tariffs on foreign cars.

EU ready to start trade war if US hits European cars

The EU has threatened the US with countermeasures worth $294 billion if the Trump administration imposes further tariffs on European cars as a result of the ongoing investigation into whether they pose a possible threat to national security.

Mercosur still pending

The Austrian minister also backed the Commission’s efforts to remove trade barriers around the world and welcomed EU trade boss Cecilia Malmström’s work on agreements with Japan, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia.

Singapore trade deal cannot be concluded by EU alone, ECJ rules

The European Union will have to secure approval from national parliaments in order to finalise a free trade deal with Singapore. The bloc’s top court ruled that the agreement in “its current form” cannot be handled by the Commission acting alone.

A deal with South American trade bloc Mercosur, however, is still far away.

“Here, what we can offer to the Commission is support to continue with the negotiations,” the minister admitted, when asked about the long-gestating trade agreement talks.

“In the long term, the objective is to reduce tariffs,” Schramböck said. Trump is indeed in favour of doing so, “the problem is the way the US is trying to reach that objective”.

Mercosur plays the field as EU trade talks drag on

Leaders of South American trade bloc Mercosur pushed for trade deals with Asian and other Western Hemisphere countries during a summit on Monday (18 June), as roadblocks remained in talks with the EU despite optimism earlier this year.


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