- The U.S. and European Union announced in a joint statement Wednesday they will work toward "zero tariffs" and removal of non-tariff barriers, following President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker's visit to the White House.
- The two parties have set up an Executive Working Group to work toward lowering trade barriers and assessing existing tariffs.
- The statement also said the U.S. and EU want to "resolve the steel and aluminum tariff issues and retaliatory tariffs" but did not specify further details.
For U.S. companies doing business within the EU, the news to reduce trade barriers holds significant promise, although the announcement is light on details of how the nations will reach their goals.
Following Juncker's visit to the White House, President Trump tweeted we "are all believers in no tariffs." It's a marked shift from a tweet just one day before, in which Trump proclaimed tariffs "the greatest."
With the uncertainty and seemingly daily change, it's no wonder companies consider protectionist trade policy their biggest business concern. As public companies report their second quarter earnings, many are noting increased sourcing costs as a result of tariffs.
As it stands currently, steel and aluminum coming into the U.S. from the EU face 25% and 10% duties, respectively. In retaliation, the EU imposed tariffs on more than $3 billion in U.S. imports, including quintessentially American goods such as Levi's jeans and bourbon.
The U.S. and EU want to "resolve" steel and aluminum tariffs but did not specify what that means or how they would do it. Juncker and Trump also said they will increase trade in "services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans."
Soybeans have been at the center of the global trade war. With China's 25% tariff on soybeans, U.S. farmers could lose $150,000, prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to announce a $12 billion aid package.
Trump said the EU agreed to buy "a lot of soybeans," hoping to offset losses by China buying fewer beans, the Associated Press reported. Soybeans exported to the EU do not face tariffs.
European Union representatives told me that they would start buying soybeans from our great farmers immediately. Also, they will be buying vast amounts of LNG!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
"We are glad to hear that our nation will resume civilized conversation with some of our closest trading partners," Rick Helfenbein, CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association said in a statement.
While the results of Trump and Juncker's meeting may be "a step in the right direction," Helfenbein said, concerns linger over trade agreements with China, Canada and Mexico — the United States' top three trading partners.
"It is critically important to remember that the administration has developed some serious contentious relations with other trading nations which remain unresolved," he said.