Truce hopes are there. But, if Berlin is looking forward to a constructive meeting, Bruno Le Maire is worried about the concessions demanded.
A success, themeeting between Donald Trump and the boss of the European Commission? For the US president, no doubt. By opening the meeting with a kiss on Trump's cheek, Jean-Claude Juncker triggered a euphoric tweet about "the love" that the two continents are wearing. Donald Trump also celebrated a "new phase" in relations between Washington and Brussels and the common will to move towards the total elimination of customs duties in industrial exchanges.
On this side of the Atlantic, the record is more mixed. In Brussels, the relief is clear at the end of a "win-win meeting", which reinstated the dialogue and paved the way for cooperation. It "removes or even eliminates the risk of a trade war that would have resulted in additional taxes on cars," sums up a European source. In addition, for the first time, the US President recognizes the need to work on a reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO), it is emphasized.
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In concrete terms, Donald Trump and the President of the European Commission announced decisions in industry, agriculture and energy. The EU should increase its purchases of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and American soybeans.
"A trade war would only be losers and it is good to return to the dialogue with the Americans on trade issues"
It is still necessary to concretize these projects. While the EU faces punitive tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum, US Finance Minister Steven Mnuchin said it was "the first issue" to be resolved and that he hoped to get there quickly. He also confirmed that there would be no customs duties on the European automotive sector as long as the US and the EU negotiate.
In Germany, where we fear more than anything the threat of taxes on the car, the meeting is "constructive", sums up a spokeswoman for Angela Merkel. "Not only is the threat of auto tariffs ruled out, but we have also agreed to work together against unjust trade practices and for WTO reform," says German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
But Bruno Le Maire do not see these advances from the same eye. "A trade war would only be losers and it is good to return to dialogue with the Americans on trade issues," said Thursday the Minister of Economy. However, he asked for "clarifications" and stressed that "a good discussion" must be done "without pressure". And he rejects the idea of a global trade deal with the United States, recalling "the limits of TTIP," the free trade agreement that Brussels and Washington failed to finalize two years ago.
Bruno Le Maire demands that agriculture "remain outside the scope of discussions", ensuring that "Europe will not compromise with its standards". It also calls for access to public markets across the Atlantic and "acts of goodwill on the American side".
"Eliminating barriers is beneficial"
So many requirements that Brussels does not want to hear. "It is unrealistic to demand the opening of US public procurement and the protection of European agriculture. The United States does not want to open its public markets. If we insist, they will ask for concessions on agriculture ", thus opposes a Brussels official.
On this subject, observers are skeptical. The European Union will achieve "almost immediately, major purchases ofsoyDonald Trump said on Wednesday. He had just announced a $ 12 billion contingency plan to compensate for the lost revenues of US farmers affected by the battle of tariff barriers between the United States and China. But European imports of US soy (which 94% of the production is genetically modified) will vary little with this agreement, predicts an expert.
On the side of European entrepreneurs, satisfaction prevails. "Eliminating the barriers is beneficial" for all, on both sides of the Atlantic, Judge Pierre Gattaz, who chairs the European BusinessEurope employers' organization. And the auto sector has jumped on the stock market. This does not prevent German industrialists from asking for "acts after words". A legitimate concern when Donald Trump asked Thursday for his services a study on a possible increase in tariffs on car imports.
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Armelle Bohineust Journalist