Coming off the successful conclusion of a phase one trade deal with China and congressional approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the Trump Administration is now looking toward finding a deal with the European Union, but it is not expected to be easy.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will travel to Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy Jan. 26-30 to engage with his counterparts on important issues facing agriculture at home and abroad. Perdue will also meet with industry representatives and tour agricultural operations, according to a statement from the secretary’s office.
While speaking before the American Farm Bureau Federation on Jan. 20, President Donald Trump said he told Perdue and some of the people before his speech: "Dealing with Europe, in many ways, has been worse and tougher than dealing with China."
Trump said his Administration has already secured guaranteed access for American beef to the EU that will nearly triple beef exports to Europe in the coming years. “As you know, Europe has tremendous barriers to us doing business with them. All those barriers are coming down. They have to come down. If they don’t come down, we’re going to have to do things that are very bad for them,” Trump said, receiving laughter from the room.
While speaking at a press conference after his trip Jan. 22 to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump said he expects to negotiate a trade deal with the EU before November’s presidential election.
“They haven’t wanted to negotiate with past presidents, but they’re going to negotiate with me,” Trump said.
“They haven’t treated us right,” Trump said of the $150 billion trade deficit with the EU. “They have trade barriers where you can’t trade. They have tariffs all over the place. They make it impossible.”
Washington, D.C., placed tariffs on $7.5 billion of EU goods in October after prevailing in a World Trade Organization case over illegal aircraft subsidies, which it has threatened to expand. In Davos, Trump also reiterated his Administration’s threat to impose punishing levies on the European automotive sector, saying punitive measures could be ramped up quickly.
Regarding a timeline for a deal, Trump said, “I have a date in mind, and it’s a fairly quick date, and if we’re able to make a deal, then we’ll do even better.”
While speaking at the formal Senate signing of USMCA, Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) was hopeful that progress on the trade front could continue with a deal with the EU, but he also noted that the bloc is a “tough nut to crack.”
Former U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Rob Portman, who also serves as a Republican senator from Ohio, said people are enthused about China and USMCA and is hopeful that an EU deal is maybe “coming around the corner.”
On Monday, Perdue plans to meet with European Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and Health & Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides. He will also participate in a media roundtable at the U.S. Mission to the European Union and attend a luncheon with the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers. That night, Perdue plans to deliver remarks at a reception to recognize partners in the U.S.-EU agricultural relationship.
On Wednesday, Perdue will meet with industry representatives at the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and will also participate in a roundtable discussion with USUN permanent representatives from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. Perdue will meet with FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu and, separately, with World Food Programme executive director David Beasley, assistant executive director for operations Valerie Guarnieri and director of the school feeding unit Carmen Burbano.