EU takes anti-Trump trade show to China and Japan

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s (EU) top officials will meet the leaders of China and Japan next week to boost ties in the face of fears that US President Donald Trump will spark an all-out global trade war.

The trip by EU Council President Donald Tusk and Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker includes the signing of a free trade deal with Japan, which was moved from Brussels last week because Japanese premier Shinzo Abe was dealing with deadly floods at home.

Their Asian tour comes as the EU – which, with 28 countries and 500 million people is the world’s biggest single market – tries to forge alliances in the face of the protectionism of Trump’s “America First” administration.European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said the “landmark” Japan deal was “the biggest ever negotiated by the European Union”.

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“This agreement will create an open trade zone covering nearly a third of the world’s GDP,” Schinas added.

In China on Monday, the two leaders will meet with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang to discuss their shared tensions with Washington, having both recently announced new tariffs on US goods in retaliation for measures imposed by Trump.

They are expected to reaffirm their support for the rules-based international order, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), which faces unprecedented criticism from Trump’s administration.

The leaders will also discuss climate change – another area on which the EU is in disagreement with Trump after he pulled out of the Paris climate deal – and nuclear issues in North Korea and Iran, Schinas said.

Trump pursues hardline trade policies, despite costs

But the EU and China will have to smooth over existing differences over Beijing’s own restrictive market practices including the “dumping” of cheap Chinese imports, especially steel.

Some of those concerns are shared by Washington.

The EU recently pushed through measures targeting China that were intended to offset the consequences of granting China so-called market economy status at the WTO, which will make it more difficult to prove and punish illegal trade practices by Beijing.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2018.

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