President Donald Trump and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced a surprise EU-U.S. agreement to open negotiations for a sweeping reduction in tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Duke University political scientist Tim Büthe, who is in Munich, can comment on the agreement, from both a U.S. and European perspective.
"Throughout Europe, the news that Trump and Juncker reached an agreement has been welcomed. The relief is palpable,” says Tim Büthe, an associate professor of political science and public policy at Duke University who specializes in the EU and the politics of international economic relations. “The agreement to negotiate a transatlantic free trade zone was completely unexpected given that Trump had just declared tariffs ‘great’ and seemed to mock Juncker just prior to his arrival in Washington.”
“European governments and news media have underscored in particular that Juncker and Trump agreed to refrain from any steps that would further escalate the U.S.-EU trade war during those negotiations. Such a rhetorical and practical de-escalation is seen as crucial for negotiating an agreement that could boost economic growth on both sides.”
“At the same time, Europeans are puzzled why Trump, who upon entering office in January 2017 promptly called off the negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), now appears to have proposed a very similar agreement. Key issues then and now will surely be regulatory harmonization or mutual recognition, since non-tariff barriers such as divergent regulations often impede trade much more than tariff between the United States and Europe. In the past, Trump has been highly critical of any agreements with the EU on these issues.”
“European reactions have also included wondering what Trump's promises and commitments on U.S.-EU trade are worth, given his frequent flip-flops on NATO and other aspects of the transatlantic relationship. Skepticism has focused on whether this is just a short-term ploy, maybe to take some of the political pressure off the Trump administration in the run-up to the mid-term election. If so: Will Trump simply walk away from this agreement the day after the election?"
Tim Büthe is a Duke University associate professor of political science and public policy, and a senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. He is also chair for international relations at the Technical University of Munich, Germany (TUM), and is a non-resident scholar of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) as well as the Bavarian Center for Transatlantic Relations (amerikahaus.de).
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