EU, US announce American beef sale deal

Auto tariffs never off the table in EU trade talks: Trump

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WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump announced a deal on Friday (Aug 2) to sell more American beef to Europe, a modest win for an administration that remains mired in a trade war with China, but he said tariffs on European auto exports remain a possibility. The European Commission has stressed that any beef deal will not increase overall beef imports and that all the beef coming in would be hormone-free, in line with EU food safety rules. The deal needs European Parliament approval.

The agreement that we sign today will lower trade barriers in Europe and expand access for American farmers and ranchers, Trump said at a gathering of European Union officials and cowboy-hatted American ranchers in the White House Roosevelt Room for the announcement. The agreement was then signed by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union’s ambassador to the United States and EU representative Jani Raappana.

Trump joked that his administration was working with the EU on a 25 per cent tariff on all Mercedes-Benz and BMWs coming into our nation. So, we appreciate – I’m only kidding, he said to laughter.

But talking to reporters later, he said imposing the tariffs on European autos remained a possibility. Auto tariffs are never off the table, Trump said. If I don’t get what I want, I’ll have no choice but maybe to do that. But so far they’ve been very good.

The beef deal could help alleviate some of the damage to the domestic agricultural industry because of tariffs Beijing has imposed on US products in retaliation for US levies on China. Trump said in the first year duty-free US beef exports to the EU will increase by 46 per cent and over seven years will rise 90 per cent further. In total the duty-free exports will rise from US$150 million (S$200 million) to US$420 million, an increase of over 180 per cent, he said.

Without mentioning China by name, Lambrinidis said the United States and Europe could work together to stand against countries that did not compete fairly in the global market. The agreement shows us that as partners we can solve problems, he said.

 

President Donald Trump blasted the European Union for its use of trade barriers and revived his threat to impose US tariffs on European automobiles if he does not see progress in stalled negotiations between the longstanding partners. Trump made the comments shortly after signing a deal to sell more US beef to Europe, an event at which he startled participants by joking that his administration was working on a 25% tariff on all Mercedes-Benz and BMWs coming into our nation. He then said he only kidding.

The EU has tremendous barriers to us, Trump told reporters later at the White House. They’re very, very difficult. Trump said the threat of auto tariffs may have helped move the EU towards accepting the beef deal, but auto tariffs remain an option. Auto tariffs are never off the table, Trump said. If I don’t get what we want, I’ll put auto tariffs. … If I don’t get what I want, I’ll have no choice but maybe to do that. But so far they’ve been very good.

EU officials have said they are eager to work with the United States to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO) and rein in China’s behaviour on world markets, but would retaliate if Washington makes good on its threat to raise car tariffs. Sabine Weyand, the European Commission’s director general of trade, last month said Brussels would not be bullied by the threat of car tariffs, which it views as illegal under WTO rules.

Negotiators for Brussels and Washington have been meeting since Trump and then-European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to ease trade tensions last year, but have made little progress and remain at odds over the scope of the talks. The United States wants agricultural products included in a broader trade deal, but the EU has said its mandate from member countries does not include that area.

Germany’s coordinator for transatlantic ties, Peter Beyer, said the beef agreement shows progress is possible when both sides work together constructively, and called for fresh efforts to reach a broader trade deal. I urge the United States to now, finally, begin serious negotiations to reach an industrial tariff agreement he said in a statement.

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