EU trade chief: Effort to ease tensions with US off to good start

WASHINGTON — European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan said Thursday he was optimistic that the United States and the European Union could work together on trade even though he received no promises that the Trump administration would hold off on adding tariffs on about $10 billion worth of European goods.

“We didnt get into any definitive actions today that are being contemplated by the United States,” Hogan told reporters after meetings with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and others in the administration.

He acknowledged that U.S. officials did “express the strong view” that Frances new digital services tax discriminates against U.S. internet companies. U.S. representatives also said the proposals the EU has made to resolve a separate dispute over government subsidies for Airbus fall short of addressing U.S. concerns.

Both issues have prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to threaten to aim his favorite trade weapon — tariffs — squarely at the EU.

Lighthizer has threatened to unilaterally impose 100 percent duties on $2.4 billion worth of French goods after France slapped a digital services tax on tech giants last year.

The Trump administration is also weighing whether to increase retaliatory duties on $7.5 billion worth of European airplanes, cheese, wine and other goods in a dispute over the trading blocs subsidies for Airbus. Tariffs of 10 to 25 percent are already in place on those goods, but the U.S. could raise them as high as 100 percent after the World Trade Organization ruled the EU was not doing enough to end its use of subsidies.

Hogan, who is making his first visit to Washington as trade commissioner, said earlier on Thursday during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that he wanted to shift the U.S.-EU trade relationship to a more positive track.

Still, only so much could be accomplished in one trip, he said.

“Its a good start … but weve a lot more to do,” he told reporters in Washington. “I didnt expect to be successful in resetting the relationship in a few days. But this was an opportunity for me to meet people for the first time, and I was very happy with the level of engagement, the very positive cooperative spirit we had with all our interlocutors in the administration.”

Hogan said he hopes ongoing talks between Mnuchin and French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire could lead to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development negotiating a compromise on the digital services tax issue without the United States following through on its tariff threat.

Hogan said the EU is also ready to negotiate with the United States to address the Airbus subsidy issue. The EU has challenged the U.S. governments support for Boeing, but has not yet received a final ruling from the WTO on the amount of retaliation it can impose.

Hogan also said the subject of the United States imposing auto tariffs on the Read More – Source