Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024
EU-US trade relations

The Council took stock of the latest developments and discussed how to maintain and strengthen the current positive momentum in EU-US bilateral trade relations, focussing in particular on the announcement (made on 31 October) concerning steel and aluminium trade and prospects for future engagement, in particular as regards the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC).

The EU and the U.S. are each other’s most important foreign direct investment destination, with mutual investments of over 60% of all global foreign direct investments. We need to continue efforts to preserve and further strengthen our transatlantic trade partnership to the benefit of all citizens on both sides. The recent US decision to remove the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminium on EU imports up to a level in line with historical levels of trade is a step in the right direction, but not yet the final destination. – Zdravko Počivalšek, Slovenian Minister for Economic Development and Technology

At the summit in June, the EU and US leaders confirmed their wish to work closely as partners and allies in the face of common challenges, to overcome disagreements, and to focus on a positive agenda. Cooperation with the Biden administration is intensive and is already delivering results including the setting up of the Trade and Technology Council, the ceasefire in the Airbus/Boeing dispute, the termination of US “Section 301” investigations into digital services taxes of some Member States, and most recently, the announcement of the removal of US tariffs on EU steel and aluminium up to previous trade levels and the agreement to start negotiations on a Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminium.

In this context, ministers expressed their commitment to advancing a positive, forward-looking trans-Atlantic agenda, and encouraged the Commission to continue its intensive engagement with the Biden administration. They also welcomed recent positive steps and indicated that work on ongoing disputes should continue until they are settled definitively. At the same time, it is important to prevent the emergence of new disputes and/or irritants. 

Following the US announcement of the unilateral replacement of “Section 232” tariffs with tariff rate quotas, based on historic imports of steel and aluminium from the EU, a decision on the unilateral suspension of EU rebalancing tariffs –that were imposed on US goods in response to the “Section 232” tariffs- is expected to be taken in the comitology framework.

Furthermore, the EU and the US negotiators agreed to suspend their respective dispute settlement cases in the WTO, and to start negotiations on a Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminium, as well as on several elements concerning ongoing cooperation (trade remedies, customs cooperation, monitoring of bilateral steel and trade flows, and cooperation on non-market excess capacity).

Although the arrangement concerning steel and aluminium is only a temporary solution, it is an improvement for EU steel and aluminium producers and exporters accessing the US market, and the EU and the US can now focus on a more forward-looking, positive trans-Atlantic agenda. The EU continues to consider that US “Section 232” tariffs against the EU and its steel and aluminium exports are incompatible with WTO rules, and therefore continues to call on the US for their full elimination.

Ministers held an informal exchange with the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai. The topical issues that were discussed during the video conference included the engagement on the positive agenda, especially the EU-US TTC, the situation ahead of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference and the need to settle the ongoing disputes definitively.

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