There are huge gaps in the story Trump tells vs the story the EU tells regarding the alleged deal between Trump and Juncker: Trump Says He ‘Opened Up Europe’ for Farmers. Europeans Disagree.
A day after President Trump hailed “a breakthrough agreement” on trade with Europe, European officials said the president and his aides are exaggerating the scope of their new pact.
While Mr. Trump told an Iowa crowd Thursday that “we just opened up Europe for you farmers,” officials in Brussels later said he did no such thing.
“On agriculture, I think we’ve been very clear on that—that agriculture is out of the scope of these discussions,” Mina Andreeva, the European Commission spokeswoman, told reporters in Brussels on Friday. “We are not negotiating about agricultural products,” added Ms. Andreeva, who was part of the European delegation visiting Washington earlier this week.
Officials on both sides agree that two specific agricultural matters came up. The Europeans said they were already engaged—prior to Wednesday’s handshake at the White House—with U.S. counterparts to boost high-quality beef imports from America as part of an effort to resolve a longstanding trade dispute. And they said they would seek to buy more U.S. soybeans, a politically sensitive sector for Mr. Trump, because China has cut imports of the crop in a separate trade tiff.
But European officials say that beyond those two specific areas, they made quite clear during the White House meeting that they would not include any broader discussion of agriculture in the pending talks.
Agriculture is one of the most sensitive and difficult trade questions for Europe, especially for France, and the U.S. and Europe have fought for years over everything from European tariffs to U.S. use of hormones and genetically modified products.
And Europe stood its ground on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, refusing to negotiate access for any American products that hadn’t been already approved by the EU. Consumer backlash against what Europeans consider inferior quality U.S. produce coupled with resistance by farmers concerned that big American producers would destroy small, family-owned operations made it doubly difficult for Brussels to meet Washington’s demands.
Juncker: The U.S. “heavily insisted to insert the whole field of agricultural products. We refused that because I don’t have a mandate and that’s a very sensitive issue in Europe,” Mr. Juncker told reporters right after the meeting.
Lighthizer: “Our view is that we are negotiating about agriculture, period,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told a Senate committee Thursday.
Only one of those views is possible and you get one guess as to which one.
Truce, Nothing More
There may be a Trade Truce but Trump won nothing.
“This is a real vindication that the president’s trade policy is starting to work,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters as he traveled with Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump, he said, hopes to push for a global reduction in trade barriers, “but to get there, we had to take a route of trying to make it more painful for the other parties to continue bad practices.”
While European officials did vow to try and buy more soybeans—to help offset American sales lost as a result of Chinese retaliation against the U.S.—they said that was really an affirmation of market forces, as prices for U.S. crops tumble, rather than a promise to buy a quota.
“We are not going to turn into some kind of a Soviet-style economy,” one said. “Market rules will remain in place.”
If Europe buys more soybeans it's because there were going to do so anyway. And they better not be GMO.
Bogus Deal, Bogus Announcement
There was no deal because there couldn't possibly be a deal. I said that upfront, and immediately after the alleged deal was announced.
This was my take hours after the announcement: Trump and Juncker Supposedly Agree to Trade Deal: Lies All Around
Lie When It's Serious
Ahead of the meeting, Juncker said it was not his intent to work out a deal. Now he says it was his intention all along.
In case you forgot, please consider the most honest thing Juncker ever said: “When it becomes serious you have to lie.”
So, is Juncker lying today or was he lying two days ago?
The US is not going to supply the EU with LNG. That is a direct and blatant lie by Trump. The EU will get natural gas from Russia via Nordstream2. US LNG would be far more costly.
So there are lies all around.
As I have pointed out, it will take the EU and the US a decade to work out a real agreement. Juncker by himself cannot promise anything. All 27 nations in the EU have to ratify trade deals.
The EU can add retaliatory tariffs without every nation agreeing and now it can remove them.
So here we are, one day later and the EU and US cannot even agree on a simple statement. The whole thing smacks of an overdone, overacted TV sitcom or "reality" show.
Even the way Juncker got Trump to agree to this non-deal is humorous.
Juncker flipped through more than a dozen colorful cue cards with simplified explainers, while telling Trump, “If you want to be stupid, I can be stupid, as well.”
For discussion, please see Stupidity Threats: "I can be stupid as well," said Juncker to Trump.
Trade Negotiation Strategy Explained
Sadly, and as noted yesterday, this is what's become of trade negotiation policy: Anything you can do, I can do stupider. I can do anything stupider than you.
It took one day for this to unravel. It's a mystery why anyone believed the deal story in the first place.
France will never give in on agricultural policy and that is a very serious issue for working out deals with the EU.
- Trade War Casualty List: 35 Companies and Organizations Complain
- My assessment that a Tariff Backlash Could Cost Republicans the Senate is clearly in play.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock