European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker went to the White House yesterday (July 25) hoping to avert an all-out trade war with the US. He came away having seemingly cajoled Donald Trump into a remarkable climbdown—and mainly by promising to do things that the EU has been planning to do for years.
Obviously the European Union, as represented by @JunckerEU and the United States, as represented by yours truly, love each other! pic.twitter.com/42ImacgCN0
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2018
Juncker promised to work on increasing trade in a number of areas, but Trump seemed particularly besotted by two things: Soybeans (“Soybeans. Soybeans is a big deal”) and liquefied natural gas (“They’re going to be a massive buyer of LNG”).
Some of the more cynical commentators have noted that Juncker, as the head of the EU’s executive arm, can’t make and keep those promises and that it’ll be up to individual member states to do the buying. But that’s only half the story: The commission has been deeply concerned about the dependence of eastern EU member states on Russian gas for years and has been providing significant funding for LNG-related infrastructure projects. LNG imports from the US already increased substantially in 2017.
EU interest in US soybeans is a more recent development—but trade headwinds have resulted in an increase in the cost of soybeans from Brazil, the bloc’s main supplier. And the EU already has zero tariffs on soy (pdf).
It doesn’t need to be said that promises of working towards “zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies” is music to Juncker’s ears—a tune the EU has wanted the US to play for nearly a decade.