EU trade commissioner raises concerns about U.S. attitude that sees trade as a game


The EU is worried about a protectionist U.S. White House that appears to see trade as a game that some countries win and others lose.

Cecilia Malmström, a Swedish politician who is the European Commissioner for Trade, told a meeting at the University of Toronto on Monday that trade agreements create benefits by lowering consumer prices and creating more jobs.

“Some tend to see trade as a game — I win, you lose,” Malmstrom said. “We don’t see it like that. We see a trade agreement as, I win, you win.”

U.S. President Donald Trump was elected on a promise to scrap or re-negotiate trade agreements that he says benefit other countries at the expense of the United States.

He has already cancelled U.S. participation in the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership. A proposed U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is currently considered “frozen.” Trump has also moved to open talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Malmström said she is worried about the U.S. skepticism on trade, as well as a potential border tax on imported goods.

“We do know the consequences of turning away from trade. We know that it will raise prices, hitting the poorest hardest of all,” she said. “We do not agree with those who think the answer is to raise barriers.”

Malmström was visiting in order to meet with businesses that depend on trade between Canada and the EU.

Earlier Tuesday, she met with some smaller businesses in Toronto that will benefit from the removal of tariffs on fashion products and building materials under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA.

We see a trade agreement as, I win, you win.

But the deal encompasses a lot of bigger trade topics, such as auto manufacturing and public procurement for big-ticket infrastructure projects. “These are not abstract things. They make a difference in the lives of people from Toronto to Turin,” she said.

The U.S. decision to shun deals with large trading blocks has not soured the EU’s support for negotiating more multilateral trade agreements. The EU is currently working on deals with the Mercosur nations in South America and the ASEAN group in South East Asia, she said.

The European Union’s parliament approved CETA in February. Legislation to implement the deal in Canada has passed the House of Commons and is now before the Senate.

Once the legislation completes its way through the Canadian system, Malmström said “96 per cent” of the deal will be in force.

Some sections on investor protection require the approval of national or regional governments in Europe. Until that happens, enough of the deal will still be in place to immediately remove 98 per cent of the tariffs that currently stand in the way of Canada-EU trade, she said.

Asked what Canadian product she might buy once those barriers disappear, she referred to the 8 per cent tariff the EU currently charges on Canadian maple syrup.

“I have to say it will be the maple syrup,” she said. And for Canada, the immediate benefit is cheese: “You’re going to get huge access to fantastic, delicious European cheese very soon.”

Financial Post

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