Trade talks: the european Parliament dithers, Trump threat

Discussions commerciales: le Parlement européen tergiverse, Trump menace

Meps have handed down Thursday, a setback to the european Commission on the burning issue in trade talks between the EU and the United States, at the time when Donald Trump’s threat of a new European trade sanctions.

The european Parliament has refused to adopt a text on the opening or not of the “trade talks with the United States,” explained the press service of the institution after the vote.

Therefore, “there is no position of the european Parliament on the subject,” he added.

Even if the Parliament has only a consultative role on this issue, it is a discourtesy to the member States and the Commission, who hoped to receive its support.

In the aftermath, the us president, Donald Trump, has launched a warning to the Europeans, although we do not know if it is related to the vote of the meps: “if they do not tell us, we will take measures that will be serious economically”.

“They are negotiating. Otherwise, we will take action which will be good for the United States,” continued the host of the White House, which still poses a threat to impose tariffs, in particular on the automotive sector.

The european Trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, had said last month to expect “a quick decision” of the member States after the vote in Parliament on a negotiating mandate that would allow him to speak on their behalf.

“I take note of the vote,” she commented on Thursday, referring to the “outcome of the discussions in Council, which represents member States. She admitted that the deputies “had raised significant concerns” during a parliamentary debate.

– “It is regrettable” –

“The vote today is a sign of the european Parliament divided so that all were agreed on one thing: to show more firmness,” responded the mep French Franck Proust (EPP, right).

“Instead, we do not have a position and the member States will be more likely to give in the face of american pressure. It is unfortunate”, he added.

The EU and the United States have been working for months to achieve the commercial agreement announced in late July by the us president, Donald Trump, and the head of the european Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, in particular by negotiating a trade agreement limited to industrial goods.

This announcement led to a truce in the tension between the two parties, at the time when Mr. Trump threatened to tax heavily the european automotive industry.

But the pressure to rise since Donald Trump has repeated his threats at the end of February: “if we don’t find an agreement (trade with the EU), we will impose tariffs” on the cars, he said.

The member States of the EU are struggling, however, to show their unity on this topic.

Berlin wants at any price to escape taxes on automobiles, a sector vital to its economy. But Paris slows down the opening of negotiations for fear of waking the opponents of free trade, in the midst of a crisis of the “yellow vests” and a few weeks before the european elections.

The France is afraid of waking up in the spectrum of the very unpopular TTIP, a broad trade agreement negotiated with Washington from 2013, but “the refrigerator” three years later and the origin of a vast european movement against free trade.

The launch of these negotiations stumbles on the fact that Washington intends to include agriculture, what denies the European.

“The United States does not have a trade agreement with Europe, which does not deal with agriculture. Them are of the opinion that an agreement should not contain this component”, had warned on Tuesday the trade negotiator-in-chief Donald Trump, Robert Lighthizer.

“We are at an impasse,” added the us Trade representative (USTR).