The European Union’s trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that the United States was shooting itself in the foot by withdrawing from its leadership role in international trade. The 49-year old Swede said that she had no idea what Donald Trump was going to tell his audience at the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos. Since coming into office a year ago, President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), threatened to get rid of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and introduced steel tariffs that could hit China as well as Europe.
In contrast to America, Europe has been busy clinching trade deals recently with a preliminary agreement with Japan concluded at the end of last year. Early this year, Brussels hopes to seal deals with Mexico and the Latin American Mercosur. Ms. Malmstrom explained that this activity was partly pushed by Donald Trump’s retreat, as countries around the world are keen on building new trade relationships. The EU is confident again that following years of economic crisis and Britain’s 2016 Brexit vote, there is energy for new trade deals
“We have shown that we have overcome that acute crisis, so many countries are turning to Europe for leadership and for partnership,” said Ms. Malmstrom, who will also be attending the high-profile Davos event. “With other countries, we are now setting the standards and that is also why it is bad for the US to withdraw because there are standards set now and they will be global.”
Ms. Malmstrom said that Europe does not like to see America’s disengagement. “We want American leadership in the world. They shouldn’t disengage,” she said. She added that the EU was also disappointed at the US’ actions at the World Trade Organization (WTO) where the US administration blocked the appointment of judges, thus jeopardizing the very functioning of the organization. She also described a WTO ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires in December a “disgrace” after it has failed to reach any agreements.