So long and thanks for all the fish –

11 – CAP, honey market, recovery fund rollout


After four years of growing tensions, can food bring the two shores of the Atlantic closer together?

Throughout human history, food has had the unique capacity to unite people who differ.

Convivial occasions dominated by food have traditionally marked the celebration of the birth of new alliances or brought former enemies back together.

This seems to be the case for trade relationships too.

Although the tariff war between the EU and the US is still raging on, a glimmer of hope is looming – and, in keeping with traditions, the first attempt at calming things down involves food.

On Monday (9 November), the EU confirmed additional tariffs of 25% on US agricultural goods in retaliation for a similar move from the Trump administration.

Back in October of 2019, the US announced punitive tariffs on EU agri-food products after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled in their favour over EU subsidies for the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

The tariffs concerned imports of EU products worth a total of €6.8 billion, ranging from Italian cheeses to French wines and Scotch whisky.

Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis – who has previously been warned not to forget agriculture – pointed out that European countries are not escalating anything, but simply mirroring the US approach.

The EU would be ready to suspend tariffs if the US was willing to do the same on their side, and if new Biden administration will take a step back from Trump’s hardline trade stance.

Biden’s victory in the US election has been hailed as a new hope for the struggling transatlantic relationship.

The day after the announcement of his victory, there was an almost immediate reaction from European People’s Party (EPP) leader, Manfred Weber, who was supposed to run the Commission and one of the biggest proponents of the failed US-EU trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

He told the Italian daily Repubblica that the EU should offer President-elect Biden a new transatlantic partnership based on a new trade deal and a common approach to China.

If the transatlantic relationship seems close to restarting, the first olive branch could come in the form of a smaller trade deal.

This week, the European Parliament’s trade committee (INTA) backed a mini-trade deal to remove EU tariffs on US lobsters.

Although the deal still needs to be approved by the whole European Parliament in late November, it has been interpreted as a gesture of goodwill from the EU’s side and a message to Biden.

“Let’s move forward and use this deal as a stepping stone for more constructive transatlantic dialogue,” said socialist MEP Bernd Lange, who chairs the INTA committee.

Of course, it is not quite the TTIP, but it is still a welcome gift. The US lobster sector is suffering from the Chinese tariffs imposed in 2018 and the effects of the Canada-EU trade deal (CETA), which makes Canadian lobsters more convenient for Europeans.

In general, agricultural commodities have proved to be a useful appeasement tool even during the Trump administration.

In July 2018, the EU agreed to make the US the new leading soybean supplier for Europe, as part of the implementation of the Joint Statement, under which the former Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Trump agreed to increase trade in several areas in July.

The EU also offered to ease trade tensions with China by authorising imports of soybeans from the US to produce biofuels.

There’s still time to make peace and build a stronger alliance. But for now, thanks for all the lobsters and soy.


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