Brussels is once again bracing for U.S. tariffs.
Just under a year after U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker struck a transatlantic trade armistice, there’s little left of the “new phase” of relations the two men announced in the White House Rose Garden on July 25 last year.
Trade talks have yet to begin, and EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström has warned that the U.S. is likely to soon impose retaliatory tariffs on up to $25 billion of European products, as part of a dispute over airline subsidies. Washington has also launched a trade investigation into France’s digital services tax. Crushing U.S. sanctions against Iran and pressure on Europe to cut business contact with Tehran have further soured relations.
It could get even worse. Seven Commission officials and EU diplomats said they fear Trump will carry out a long-standing threat to impose painful auto tariffs as early as November. The EU has said it is ready to retaliate with its own tariffs targeting €20 billion of U.S. exports.
“Compared to one year ago, the number of trade irritants has increased, not decreased,” said Luisa Santos, director for international relations at BusinessEurope. “It’s very difficult to keep a positive agenda.
In a bid to preserve the fragile truce, the Commission’s new director general for trade, Sabine Weyand, is in Washington Monday and Tuesday for discussions with Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish.
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