By Stefan J. Bos
In a hastily called Rose Garden appearance at the White House with US President Donald Trump, the president of the EU's executive European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said the U.S. and the EU had agreed to hold off on new tariffs. "When the President invited me to the White House, I had one intention: I had the intention to make a deal today. And we made a deal today," he said.
"We have identified a number of areas on which to work together. Work towards zero tariffs on industrial goods. And that was my main intention, to propose to come down to zero tariffs on industrial goods. "
Juncker suggested that that the United States will suspend plans to start taxing European auto imports — a move that would have marked a significant escalation in trade tensions between the allies.
In exchange, the EU will buy more US liquefied natural gas (LNG) and soybeans. "We’ve decided to strengthen our cooperation on energy. The EU will build more terminals to import liquefied natural gas from the U.S. This is also a message for others" Juncker explained.
"We agreed to establish a dialogue on standards. As far as agriculture is concerned, the European Union can import more soybeans from the U.S., and it will be done," the EU leader pledged. "And we also agreed to work together on the reform of the WTO. This, of course, is on the understanding that as long as we are negotiating, unless one party would stop the negotiations, we will hold off further tariffs, and we will reassess existing tariffs on steel and aluminum," Juncker added.
A joint statement said the two leaders agreed to "work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods."
U.S. import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, imposed in March, will, however, remain in place.
But President Trump did not rule out changes in the future. "We’re starting the negotiation right now, but we know very much where it’s going," he said.
"We also will resolve the steel and aluminum tariff issues, and we will resolve retaliatory tariffs. We have some tariffs that are retaliatory. And that will get resolved as part of what we’re doing."
But while politicians and businesses welcomed the deal Thursday, the agreement was vague.
Analysts agree that the negotiations are sure to be contentious, at a time when the United States remains embroiled in significant trade disputes elsewhere with China and other countries.