EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is still unsure what the United States wants in return for a permanent EU waiver from steel tariffs but she promised that she would resist pressure to decrease EU duties on US cars. Ms. Malmstrom who leads negotiations on behalf of the 28-state EU admitted that it still needs to be figured out what would satisfy the ultimate arbiter in the White House.
US President has given the EU and six other allies until 1 May to negotiate permanent exemptions from tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. The EU was already cooperating with the US to address trade practices that promoted overcapacity of both steel and aluminum. “Then … they always come back to these car tariffs,” she said, referring to longstanding US grumbling over EU duties. “If you have analyzed all the speeches by President Trump, he seems to think that, and I’m almost quoting him, that the rest of the world is cheating the US, that we have unfair trade practices,” she added.
Brussels disputes Trump‘s view on tariffs and his focus on cars, for which the US tariff, at 2.5 percent, is lower than the EU’s 10 percent. For other products, such as trucks, American tariffs are higher than European ones. Ms. Malmstrom said that the EU also had a long list of “trade irritants” with the White House; for example, the Buy America Act that requires federal funds for road and rail projects to be spent on American-made goods, or the Jones Act, which requires goods shipped between US ports to be transported on US vessels crewed by US citizens. “These are things that would be mutually beneficial if we can solve, and we’re always willing to engage but we need to know what is the expected outcome for May and how serious is that deadline,” Ms. Malmstrom pointed out.
As to the deadline, Ms. Malmstrom commented that the May deadline puts pressure on negotiations with NAFTA countries (Canada and Mexico) and with South Korea on revamping their trade deals. “I’m not sure exactly what this deadline means and what they are expecting from this,” she said. “The EU is certainly not negotiating anything under threat, especially when we don’t really know what it is.” EU chief of trade also added that no one in the White House was proposing to revive the stalled EU-US trade negotiations.