EU adopts an ‘assertive’ new trade policy as it resets relations with US
The bloc also confirmed that it will press ahead with a controversial trade deal with the South American Mercosur bloc, but hinted that it may take some time to resolve a tariff war with the US.
“The EU will be more assertive in pursuing our interests and protecting ourselves from unfair trade practices,” said EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis. In its long-awaited trade policy review, published yesterday, the EU reconfirmed its commitment to what it called “open trade”.
But it also sought to reassure critics that it would protect EU companies against unfair competition and stand up to human rights abuses in China and elsewhere.
The investment deal signed with Beijing in December is “not a panacea to deal with all the challenges presented by China”, the EU’s trade review said. Instead, the bloc has promised to use ‘targeted sanctions’ and introduce laws to prevent imports from countries that abuse human rights or the environment.
Mr Dombrovskis said the EU is trying to get extra commitments from Brazil on Amazon deforestation in a bid to get parliamentary approval for the 2019 Mercosur trade deal.
French, Irish and other farmers have condemned the deal, saying lax climate and health regulations in Brazil give it an unfair advantage over the EU.
“We are well aware of concerns and criticisms surrounding this agreement, not least to the issues linked with deforestation of Amazon [sic],” said Mr Dombrovskis.
Meanwhile, Irish drinks and dairy exporters may have to wait a while before US tariffs are lifted, as talks can’t begin until the US appoints a new trade representative.
We want to rapidly resolve our trade disputes and restore EU-US leadership as the engine of positive global change,” Mr Dombrovskis said.
“We have signalled...our willingness to suspend tariffs from both sides, of course aiming at elimination of these tariffs. We expect those negotiations to start in earnest once the new US trade representative will be in place.”
The US slapped EU goods with a spate of new tariffs in December in a tit-for-tat war with the bloc over aviation subsidies, including 25pc duties on exports of Irish butter, milk, cheese, pig meat, whiskey and cream liqueur.