The European Parliament failed to pass a resolution on Thursday (14 March) supporting the start of negotiations with the US on removing tariffs for industrial goods, worsening the prospects of de-escalating trade tensions between Brussels and Washington.
The negative vote followed the divisions among member states on whether to start trade talks with US President Donald Trump to remove the tariffs and progress on standards alignment.
— Alberto Alemanno (@alemannoEU) March 14, 2019
Although the resolution is not binding, the parliament has to approve any deal agreed signed with the US, and EU governments said they wanted to hear the view of lawmakers before deciding.
The draft text, broadly supported by centre-right parties but opposed by social democrats and other left-wing groups, set conditions for the negotiations: to include cars and exclude agriculture and to be suspended if Washington imposes new punitive tariffs.
However, leading MEPs voiced their concerns about opening negotiations with Trump while the steel and aluminium tariffs punishing European exporters remain in place.
The chair of the Parliament’s international trade committee said, Bernd Lange, said the EU had already done many concessions, and he wondered “where the concessions from the US are.”
Some critics also suspect that Trump is leaning toward imposing fresh duties on European car exporters, in order to force the EU to open its market to US farmers.
However, this remains a ‘red line’ for the Europeans, especially in France, where the government is particularly reluctant to continue with the talks while tariffs are still in place.
The two sides ended a stand-off last July, when Trump agreed to hold off imposing tariffs on EU car imports while the two sides looked to improve trade ties.
Since then, U.S. soybean exports to the EU have more than doubled and Brussels and Washington have discussed how they could agree on product standards and boost U.S. energy exports to Europe.
But critics warned of the risky precedent of negotiating ‘at gunpoint’ while ‘unfair’ tariffs are still punishing European exporters.
They also complained that the EU’s latest trade deals include provisions on climate change, which is not the case with the negotiating mandates the Commission sent for approval to the member states.
These are two texts – one on tariffs, the other on making it easier for companies to have products tested and cleared for sale across the Atlantic.
EU governments failed to reach a consensus at a meeting last month, with Germany keen to push ahead, but France reluctant.
Trump’s envoy in Brussels, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, warned on several occasions that the US president would slap fresh duties on European cars unless there was real progress on the trade talks.