Trump And EU Agree To Work Toward Zero Tariffs

AP  Jae C. Hong

AP Jae C. Hong

President Trump welcomed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to the White House on Wednesday for what are likely to be tense discussions over trade and tariffs, with Trump saying the seeking a "level playing field" on trade with the European Union.

Trump's trade wars have seen the USA hit Canada, the European Union and Mexico with tariffs on aluminum and steel - a move that has seen the Great White North fire back with retaliatory tariffs on $16.6-billion of US steel, aluminium and consumer products.

Trump warned at a cabinet meeting last week that he would move forward with 25 per cent auto tariffs if the meeting with Juncker didn't go well.

President Donald Trump told European leaders Wednesday that the USA wants a "fair trade deal" with the European Union as both sides sought to defuse tensions in an escalating trade battle involving some of the world's biggest economies.

Juncker said that while negotiations were taking place on those issues, both sides had agreed not to impose new tariffs, including those threatened by Trump on autos and auto parts. Both sides agreed to work toward the goal of "zero" tariffs and subsidies on non-auto industrial goods and to "resolve" recent tariffs that both sides have imposed.

China targeted tariffs on US farm products after Trump imposed new steel and aluminum tariffs earlier this year, selecting crops and products in areas where Trump enjoys support. Beijing retaliated with tariffs on soybeans and pork.

Nick VanWychen, a Kaukauna farmer, says soybeans are one of the crops most affected by trade disputes.

High tariffs disrupt normal marketing patterns, affecting prices and raising costs by forcing commodities to find new markets.

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With congressional elections coming soon, the government action underscored administration concern about damage to USA farmers from Trump's trade tariffs and the potential for losing House and Senate seats in the Midwest and elsewhere. He echoed President Trump and efforts to strengthen energy cooperation and importation of LNG.

European Commission's spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said on Monday that Juncker did not intend to make particular proposals regarding the mutual trade at the meeting with President Trump. The administration clobbers farmers with an unnecessary trade war then attempts to assuage them with taxpayer handouts.

He also said they pledged that both the USA and European Union would appoint representatives to negotiations on the details on the new agreement "right now".

The run-up to the White House meetings with the European Union chief and agriculture lawmakers featured a string of threats by Trump.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who has been critical of the president in the past, said the tariffs "are a massive tax increase on American consumers and businesses, and instead of offering welfare to farmers to solve a problem they themselves created, the administration should reverse course and end this incoherent policy". He said Europe would agree to buy more soybeans and liquefied natural gas from the U.S.

The response to the announcement was mixed, with many legislators criticizing the plan, calling it "welfare for farmers", and farm groups pleading for a more lasting solution.

Trump's tweet comes less than 24 hours after the US Department of Agriculture authorized $12 billion of support for farmers and ranchers hurt by tariffs imposed by China.

"That indicates [the US] will likely stand ground with the tariffs against China through the fourth quarter, when there are midterm elections in the U.S. and soy harvests begin in the northern hemisphere, and into the spring of 2019", he said.

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