France blocks trade talks with the US, angering EU partners

France is blocking the launch of trade talks with the US, exasperating its EU partners who fear a restart to a trade war with President Donald Trump, diplomats said on Friday.

France blocks trade talks with the US, angering EU partners
Diplomats fear a resumption of trade wars between Europe and the US. Photo: AFP

“The French are blocking, but they are isolated,” a European source told AFP after a Friday meeting of envoys from member states ended without an agreement.

The envoys are struggling to decide a mandate to launch the transatlantic negotiations given the opposition of Paris that fears domestic blowback just months ahead of European elections, set for May 22 to 26.



Berlin however strongly wants the deal in order to placate Trump and avoid US auto tariffs that would punish Germany's cherished exports, a prospect Chancellor Angela Merkel has labelled “frightening”.

Pursuing a limited trade deal was the central part of a truce agreed in July when Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged no new tariffs following those on steel and aluminium.

“France is really testing the patience of the other member states to the limit,” an EU diplomat said, on condition of anonymity.

“It's quite daring to block something that everyone else wants,” the diplomat added. Talks were set to resume on Wednesday.

At Friday's meeting, French diplomats called for more time to discuss differences while the Germans argued that “waiting weakens the negotiating ability of Europeans”, the source said.

Paris is especially wary after the failure of talks on TTIP, a far more ambitious transatlantic trade plan, which stalled amid fears a deal with Washington would undermine EU food and health standards.

As a condition French President Emmanuel Macron last week demanded a clear signal that TTIP is obsolete, though some member states would like the option to revive those talks to survive.

France is also insisting on environmental guarantees if the trade negotiations take place, diplomats said.

But diplomats added that Macron had stepped back from calling for Washington's adherence to the Paris climate accord, which Trump pulled out of  in 2017.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


France says EU ‘must be ready to react’ to US trade tariffs

France, along with the UK and Germany -- the European Union's three largest economies -- agree on the need to be "ready to react" to trade tariffs imposed by the United States, France's presidency said Sunday.

France says EU 'must be ready to react' to US trade tariffs
Photo: AFP
“The EU must be ready to react, if necessary, with efficiency and speed,” it said in a statement after telephone talks between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May on the potential impact of new US tariffs.
Crippling US tariffs on steel and aluminium are set to take effect on Tuesday, and key trading partners including the EU have urged the White House to exempt them from the additional cost. 
US President Donald Trump met last week with Macron and Merkel but gave no indication of whether or not he planned to exempt the EU, which last year exported over $7.7-billion of steel and aluminium to the US market. 
Eurozone powerhouse Germany last week said it expected Washington to impose the tariffs from May 1, although a key economic advisor to Trump hinted Thursday that concessions might be made to the EU.

'There will only be losers': France laments Donald Trump's new trade tariffsPhoto: AFP

“It's very important that somany of our friends make some concessions with respect to trading practices, tariffs and taxes,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told CNBC.
He pointed to concerns about “equal treatment of automobiles” in the EU as an example.
Macron, Merkel and May discussed the tariffs and said they “hope the United States doesn't take measures contrary to transatlantic interests,” the Elysee statement said.  
Trump imposed the tariffs last month on national security grounds, saying cheap imports were undermining US producers crucial to military preparedness, but gave a temporary reprieve to the countries that are the main suppliers to the US market. 
The measures were targeted primarily at overproduction by China, which has been the key focus of Trump's combative trade policies.
The EU has threatened to impose their own punitive tariffs on key US goods if they are not shielded from the steel and aluminium duties.
In a state visit to Washington last week, Macron called for cooperation among allies on trade. 
“You don't make trade war with your allies,” Macron warned addressed the US Congress.
The three EU leaders also discussed the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has threatened to scrap, the French presidency said.