U.S. must join us in trade tango, urges EU trade chief nominee

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The United States needs to realise it has deep economic ties with Europe and shared concerns on China and should work more as a partner on trade issues, the candidate to become the next EU trade chief said on Monday.

Irishman Phil Hogan, nominated to be EU trade commissioner for the next five years, fielded a series of questions from lawmakers during a hearing at the European Parliament, including on strained transatlantic ties.

“During the moments of heightened tension we must not lose sight of the big picture. We trade 3 billion euros (2.7 billion pounds) a day with the United States and the EU-U.S relationship remains the largest and deepest economic relationship in the world,” Hogan said.

Hogan pointed to an agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in July 2018 to deepen economic ties and avoid further tariff hikes, such as threatened by Trump on EU car imports.

“Unfortunately we have not seen much movement on that agenda since then,” he said.

Washington and Brussels aimed to negotiate an agreement to remove tariffs on industrial goods, but are in a stalemate as the United States says agriculture must be included, while the EU insists it cannot.

Hogan, who is currently commissioner for agriculture, said a major task would be to persuade Washington to work towards a balanced and a more mutually beneficial partnership, adding “But it takes two to tango”.

The candidate commissioner said the key would be to stress areas of common interest and successes, such as a deal in August to sell more U.S. beef to Europe.

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Hogan said the EU shared many of the concerns of the United States, notably the state control and subsidies of “one particular country that we all know about” – a clear reference to China.

“That approach can lead to various agreements benefiting both sides and I hope that the United States can see that,” Hogan said.

The European Parliament is holding a series of hearings with the proposed team of the next Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and will vote on that team before it can take office for five years from Nov. 1.

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