Brussels: The European Union’s new trade chief plans to visit Washington on Jan. 14-16 a bid to repair transatlantic relations frayed by US measures against imports from the bloc and its attacks on the global commercial order.
Phil Hogan will meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to discuss disputes including an American threat to hit $2.4 billion of French goods with tariffs in retaliation over a digital-services tax in France.
The US alleged on December 2 — the day after Hogan became EU trade commissioner — that France’s tax discriminates against US technology companies such as Google, Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc
Such levies would mark the first time President Donald Trump’s administration deploys against Europe a policy tool — Section 301 of a 1974 American law — reserved so far for the US trade war against China. The prospect has alarmed the EU, which is already scrambling to expand its policy arsenal in response to a separate US threat to the rules-based international system.
“The only acceptable route to address trade disputes is through the World Trade Organisation adjudication process,” Hogan told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on December 19. “The European Union will act — and react — as one against any unilateral measures outside the multilateral trading system.”
Ties between the EU and US, the world’s biggest economic partners, have deteriorated on numerous fronts since Trump took office in January 2017 with an “America First” agenda that has shaken the global order put in place with American support after the Second World War.
Hogan’s visit would overlap with another important date on the US administration’s calendar. Trump has said he plans to sign phase one of a trade deal with China on Jan. 15 in the US capital.
While the transatlantic tensions extend to decisions by Trump to abandon major international agreements to fight climate change, control nuclear arms in Europe and curb Iran’s atomic-energy program, the EU’s sore points with the US over trade go well beyond possible American retaliatory tariffs tied to France’s digital tax.