EU-US trade talks mandate fails

MEPs rejected the resolution on starting the negotiations

Photo: EU “We are not giving anything away,” Cecilia Malmstrom told MEPs.

During the plenary sitting in Strasbourg on 14 March, MEPs did not back a mandate for starting negotiations on a new trade agreement with the US. The Parliament's non-binding resolution received only 198 votes in support to 223 against and 37 abstentions. The situation was critically changed when during the vote were adopted amendments calling on the EU not to surrender to Trump's import tariff threats and insisting that trade partners must implement the Paris Agreement. According to analysists, precisely this forced the centre-right part of the Chamber to show thumbs down.

The Commission tabled proposals for negotiating directives on conformity assessment and on the elimination of tariffs for industrial goods for its trade talks with the US on 18 January this year. This move was part of the implementation of the July joint statement of presidents Juncker and Trump.

“It is crystal clear in this mandate - and by accepting it, you would make it even clearer in writing - that agriculture is not included in the negotiations,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told MEPs during the debate held the previous day. She also explained that it is a limited agreement that “we are asking for on industrial goods, including fisheries and cars”, specifying further that “we are not giving anything away”.

However, some MEPs voiced concerns that farming will be included, citing American sources that have indicated such an agreement is impossible without agriculture being put on the plate.

Bernd Lange (S&D, DE), who chairs the International Trade Committee, warned: “We do not want to negotiate with a gun to our head,” enumerating a lot of concessions the EU has made already. The import of LPG from the US has increased by 180%, the import of soybeans has increased by 112%, he stressed, adding that US tariffs on steel and aluminium are in force, with additional tariffs on Spanish olives, and there are threats for additional duties on cars and motor vehicle parts. Where are the concessions of the United States, he asked.

The punitive threats of the Trump administration have worked, Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, DE) pointed out. First, Trump tarred the world with punitive tariffs on aluminium and steel products, then he drove China into a trade dispute that plagues the entire global economy. Now he threatens to impose 25% tariffs on cars from Europe, unless the EU enters into a trade agreement with the US under his conditions. This is simply blackmail, he added.

Yannick Jadot, French Green MEP, recalled that TTIP failed because the public did not want it and by trying to restart this process the Commission is ignoring all the protests, campaigns and public discontent seen in recent years. The planet and sustainability has to be at the core of any agreement, he underlined.

What happens next with the mandate will be decided by the Member States.

 

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