by D.J. McGuire
Defenders of Donald Trump are crowing about his “deal” with the EU to hold off future tariff hikes and discuss reducing trade barriers in certain manufacturing goods. Never have so many offered so much praise for so little.
Scott Lincicome of the CATO Institute examined the joint statement on this Twitter thread. To make a long story short, no actual reductions in tariffs were agreed. Instead, the US and the EU have agreed to start talking about future reductions in tariffs. So none of Trump’s tariffs were reversed; nor were any of the EU’s retaliation tariffs. As Lincicome also notes, even the apparent promise to rule out future tariffs against each other is “vague.”
Still, a future trade liberalization agreement would be helpful, yes?
Actually, yes it would. That’s not the problem here.
What is the problem was that talks on US-EU trade liberalization had already been well under way during the Obama Administration. It was known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Negotiations hadn’t been completed, of course, and it was controversial, but it was also an established framework to discuss freer trade between America and Europe that was far beyond merely “non-auto industrial goods.”
What happened to the TTIP? Donald Trump happened to the TTIP. He railed against it as a candidate, and his election killed the negotiations.
Over a year and a half later, we’re starting all over again with a much more cramped potential agreement, with Trump’s harmful tariffs still in place.
We also have to consider how Trump will react to the wheezing, dysfunctional nature of negotiating with the EU (although that’s the EU’s fault, not his).
This is hardly worth celebrating. At best, we should be relieved that, for now, US-EU trade relations won’t get worse. However, the damage to our economy from the tariffs is not only done, but is still happening as the tariff hikes themselves didn’t go away.
It’s a typical Trump “deal” – nothing of substance behind a list of platitudes not worth the bandwith on which they’re virtually printed. That Trump and his supporters are touting it so loudly is a sign of their desperation. In reality, nothing has been accomplished here.
D.J. McGuire – a self-described “progressive conservative” – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015