Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Brussels 'concerned' over US trade deficit probe

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy
Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy

Sarah Collins

Brussels has hit back at a US probe into trade deficits with Ireland and other EU member states.

EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström said she was "concerned" at the US move, and said the European Commission had written a letter to the US on behalf of the EU's 28 members.

"The EU has one single trade policy, and diverging surpluses or deficits in one individual member state cannot originate in trade policy measures," Ms Malmström told reporters in Brussels last week.

"We understand that the US wants to look at this, but we feel very strongly that a deficit is not an accurate metric only to evaluate the consequences of trade or openness," she said. "We'll have to see what happens."

In 2016, the US ran a trade deficit of around half a trillion dollars with the rest of the world.

That figure included a high deficit in goods with China and several EU countries: Germany ($64.9bn), Ireland ($35.9bn), Italy ($28.5bn) and France ($15.8bn).

US President Donald Trump has ordered a study into whether "unfair and discriminatory trade practices" by its partners are responsible for the deficits.

The study, due to be published at the end of June, will look at countries with whom the US has a "significant" trade deficit. Meanwhile, an EU court has found that the European Commission was wrong to refuse to register a petition to stop talks on an EU-US trade deal.

Also Read

The deal, known as the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), has been on ice since President Trump's election.

The group, Stop TTIP, had campaigned to have the petition recognised as a European Citizens' Initiative, which would have forced the Commission to act if more than one million signed it.

The Commission said the petition - signed by over 3.2 million citizens in 23 EU countries - would have interfered in the talks, which began in 2013, but the court said it was part of a legitimate "democratic debate".

The group launched the petition back in 2014 over fears TTIP would introduce an opaque system of investor courts and dilute EU employment, social and climate protections.

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy (above) said the decision meant the EU could "no longer continue shutting the door to debate on their regressive and dangerous trade agenda".

Hard border 'impossible' - McGuinness

MEP Mairead McGuinness says EU members now have first-hand knowledge of the challenges Brexit poses for Ireland after visiting the border last Thursday.

"Seeing is believing and the invisibility of the border today is something which must be maintained post-Brexit," McGuinness said. "The MEPs saw with their own eyes how impossible and undesirable it would be to see a hard border re-established between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland."

Indo Farming

More in EU