Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Trump and top European leader agree to work toward zero tariffs

Trump’s financial aid offer to farmers criticized as tax-funded ‘welfare’ Trump says ‘drop all tariffs’ with European Union — hours after tweeting ‘tariffs are the greatest’
Cristina Norman | 26 July, 2018, 13:30

Before European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to import more soybeans on Wednesday, the USA government agreed to a $12 billion bailout for American farmers who had been adversely affected by President Trump's tariffs on certain imports from China, the EU, Canada and Mexico.

Both sides pledged on Wednesday to lower some industrial tariffs and increase Europe's purchases of United States soybeans and liquefied natural gas - both potential weapons for Beijing in its trade war with Washington - while moving to re-examine existing U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium and retaliatory ones from Europe. The U.S. and China have threatened to impose 25 percent tariffs next week on $16 billion of each other's goods.

He said this was a "short-term" solution to help farmers and give President Donald Trump time to negotiate a longer term trade deal to help agriculture and other sectors hurt by unfair trading practices by China and others.

They also agreed to increase trade in services and agriculture, including greater United States soy bean exports to the EU.

On Wednesday, Trump and Juncker said they have agreed to work toward "zero tariffs" and "zero subsidies" on non-automotive goods.

Trump has placed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, saying they pose a threat to US national security, an argument that the European Union and Canada rejects.

Canada, Mexico, and China - the main target of Trump's trade offensive - also hit back with steep duties on U.S. goods, and have filed complaints against Washington at the WTO.

On a call explaining the assistance, the administration said the $12 billion value of the package was in line with the estimated $11 billion hit to farmers from recent trade tensions.

He says the on-going trade war is hitting the farming industry where it hurts.

While the United States president can claim his aggressive approach is working, consumers, farmers and businesses are feeling the pain from the retaliatory measures imposed to counter the raft of USA tariffs on steel, aluminum, and tens of billions of dollars in products from China put in place in recent weeks.

The moves have been unsettling to lawmakers with districts dependent upon manufacturers and farmers affected by the retaliatory tariffs.

G20 ministers call for greater dialogue on trade tensions
G20 ministers call for greater dialogue on trade tensions

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said the proposal was raised a month ago when senators visited the White House for a broad discussion on trade.

He later told reporters that was a "major concession" on Trump's part and that he expected the U.S. president to follow through on it.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said at an global summit in South Africa that the world faces "a choice between cooperation and confrontation", in remarks that criticized escalating US tariffs on goods from China and other major trading partners.

Though details are not yet final, the aid package is not expected to breach the $19.1 billion limit the World Trade Organization allows for internal subsidies, according to Brad Karmen, the USDA's assistant deputy administrator for farm programs.

But with Trump expecting Juncker to come to Washington with a "significant" offer - and Brussels saying that won't happen - the outcome of this meeting is too tricky to call.

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said Trump's 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'.

There has already been considerable realignment in the soybean markets, as China - the largest importer of soybeans - buys up more of the goods from places such as Brazil, analysts said.

Another option could be a deal between the United States and the European Union to eliminate tariffs on industrial products, including cars, similar to what Trump's tweet suggested.

The EU, China, and Canada have hit billions of U.S. goods with tariffs in response, causing the White House on Tuesday to propose $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers hurt by such retaliatory measures.

Those affected economies have in turn targeted USA agricultural products, including soybeans, dairy, meat, produce and liquor.

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