New Year, Same Trump: Will 2018 see the US President’s Problems with the EU Reach a Nasty Conclusion?

Brexit is not the only issue on the plate of officials in Brussels at the moment, as Donald Trump called out the EU over unfair treatment of US exporters just last week. In a characteristically vague style, the US president told ITV in a recent broadcast that the problems he refers to could easily “morph into something very big”, alluding to the possibility of further tariffs and restrictions to be placed on European imports. His comments follow the onset of a Washington investigation into the extent to which US national security concerns are upheld by existing international economic relationships.

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Unsurprisingly, this is not the first issue Trump has raised with the EU during his presidency. He has been an open supporter of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, even telling Piers Morgan that he would take a “tougher stand” on withdrawing if he were at the helm. What’s more, he has cited his own previous experiences as a businessman as a key example which tainted his relationship with the trading bloc, recalling the difficulties he encountered during his attempts to set up golf resorts in Ireland whilst on a recent presidential visit to Belgium. He has thus brought this sceptical attitude into his dealings with the EU from a new position of power, leading campaigns to withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The problem at hand is that, according to the President, the US “cannot get our product in” due to the high taxes imposed on their exports. Conversely, Trump suggested that he’d been dealt the short hand because of the low taxes North America has been used to placing on imports from the EU, speculating that there is “very little” at all to be gained from this relationship.

Naturally, officials from the EU haven’t backed away from these accusations. Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger responded to Trump’s comments in a statement where he envisioned a “two-way street” between the two trading entities, suggesting that any sanctions he might place on the EU would have to work both ways. This brewing opposition appears to be somewhat connected to recent trade disputes over US government sanctions on aerospace giant Bombardier Inc. which threatened thousands of jobs in its Belfast construction hub. A 292% tariff loomed over the company’s airliners which are sold in America, and despite the proposal being overruled by the US International Trade Commission, this move was indicative of the possibility of conflicting interests developing between the US and EU in coming years. In turn, this could have favourable outcomes for an independent UK seeking to strengthen its special relationship with its ally across the pond, with the possibility of the UK import tariffs paling in comparison to Trump’s envisioned sanctions on the Union in question.

Grace Ennis

Image: [Politifact]