Trade Cases

EU: No Concessions or Trade Talk Until Tariff Exemptions

Written by Sandy Williams

The European Union has thrown down the gauntlet to the U.S. regarding trade negotiations. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said there will be no future trade talks with the U.S. until the EU receives a permanent exclusion from tariffs on steel and aluminum. No concessions will be made to the U.S. to receive the exclusion, added Malmström.

“We have not offered the U.S. anything,” she said at a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday. “We are not going to offer them anything to get exceptions from tariffs we consider not in compliance with the [World Trade Organization]. So we are asking them, we are demanding a permanent and unconditional exception from that. When that is confirmed by the president, we are, as always, willing to discuss anything when it comes to trade, trade facilitation, trade irritants, with the U.S. and others. But we are not negotiating anything under threat. We are not offering them anything.”

Malmström emphasized, “We are under no circumstances negotiating anything under pressure and under threat.”

The Commissioner and EU Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen urged WTO members to adhere to multilateral action on trade issues rather than bilateral. 

“It’s always worrisome if any of our partners indicate they are willing to take unilateral actions against us or against anybody,” Katainen said at the press conference. He noted a rise in unhealthy trade practices that cannot be dealt with by unilateral actions.

“We have to defend rules-based systems. Sometimes [the] rules-based system is slow, but actually it’s the only way to deal with these types of problems,” he said.

The EU has called the tariffs “pure protectionism” and has requested consultation with the WTO regarding the imposition of safeguard measures by the U.S. on imports of steel and aluminum products. In an April 16 filing, the EU wrote, “Notwithstanding the United States’ characterization of these measures as security measures, they are in essence safeguard measures.”

The Section 232 tariffs are also preventing further discussions on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that was begun in June 2013 and stalled in 2016 when it became apparent that a resolution would not take place before the last presidential election. Any restart of negotiations with the Trump administration would require a mandate from the EU member states.

Aside from trade issues with the United States, the EU has completed a trade deal with Japan and Singapore and is closing in on trade deals with Mexico and Mecorsur (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay).

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