US-EU trade war postponed for the time being?

The EU will remain exempt from tariffs on steel and aluminium for now. President Trump has postponed the decision until the start of June. Concerns about a looming trade war continue to dominate Europe's opinion pages. Some media believe, however, that the tension is being artificially maintained.

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Trump exposed as a windbag

The US president has shown that he isn't serious about his trade policy, concludes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Trump's approach smacks of political humbug and old tricks, of fabricating a negotiation mass out of nothing with exaggerated demands. Announcing the decision just a few hours before the deadline on May 1 may have boosted viewer ratings, but this is not what a serious trade policy with one's allies looks like. ... Trump may gain his clientèle's approval by inciting trade disputes, but issuing threats and going backwards and forwards on things doesn't help matters and won't strengthen the competitiveness of American industrial companies either.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Reprieve won't help

Trump's decision to postpone the introduction of tariffs doesn't change the fact that the US and Europe are on the verge of a trade war, comments Hospodářské noviny:

“ The postponement offers the opportunity to calm the situation; but the tone of the debate between the West's economic powers remains ominous. This is the result of the convictions of Trump, who sees international trade as a competition at the end of which there are winners or losers. That trade can be profitable for both sides is inadmissible according to this way of seeing things.”

Ria Novosti (RU) /

Europe freeing itself from US dominance

The topic of tariff barriers is currently the only one where Trump can still assert himself vis-à-vis Merkel and Macron, Ria Novosti is commenting on the two European leaders' visits to Washington last week:

“The only 'success' [for Trump] lay in the fact that the two leaders couldn't persuade the US president to drop the idea of a new transatlantic trade war. But that result will clearly not satisfy Trump or those who still believe in US hegemony. ... Even now one can say: Europe has wrestled itself free of the US's grip, meaning that cooperation between the US and Europe will become increasingly conflictual in the future. For Russia and China that is simply fantastic news - and for Europe it's a chance to regain the freedom it once lost.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Trump could divide the EU

The US president could try to use the trade dispute to play Germany and France off against each other, columnist Wolfgang Münchau fears in the Financial Times:

“The EU is united over the Iran deal, but the confrontation on tariffs will test its unity. What makes the conflict particularly sensitive is that Mr Trump may succeed in driving a wedge between France and Germany. He has a problem with German cars, not French champagne. And the 2017 bilateral US trade deficit with France was 15bn against 64bn with Germany. I have often written about the economic damage that results from Germany's 8 per cent current account surplus. It is now becoming a political problem for the EU.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Bilateral talks would be a huge step backwards

Trump wants to overturn the global trade system, La Republicca warns:

“In terms of material assets alone, the US's trade deficit with Europe amounts to 151 billion dollars. But if you factor in services, which constitute the most dynamic aspect of today's economy, the US has a trade surplus of 50 billion dollars. Trump, however, pays no heed to the complex mechanisms of international trade. He's more interested in his voters' mood. ... The EU wants to defend its interests 'in the context of multinational trade rules' - according to which everyone has the same right to commercial advantages. ... But if you suspend these rules and they are replaced with bilateral negotiations in which the US can use its full clout against individual trading partners, it would be a huge step backwards.”