By Beatriz Rios
(EurActiv) — Austria’s EU Presidency is committed to preserving EU unity on the US trade dispute during its mandate but wants the European Commission to prioritise a transatlantic dialogue and avoid escalation.
“At the end of the day, what is important is not what someone says in a tweet but rather in what state companies actually find themselves,” Margarete Schramböck, Austria’s economic minister told a press briefing in Vienna.
At this stage, even with a pending investigation on whether automotive parts and imports impair US national security, Austria believes it is time for “building bridges, for dialogue”.
“In the case of aluminium and steel, we proved that we were able to react but we are now in a different phase,” Schramböck stated.
The minister put all her hopes on Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who will be travelling later this month to Washington to seek a solution to the potential trade war between the US and the EU.
But if the Trump administration decides to hit European cars, there will be consequences. “We will react with countermeasures because we need to protect our industry,” Schramböck warned. “I have the feeling that we stand together as one on this,” she said.
Last Friday (29 June), the Commission sent its response to the ongoing US investigation and warned that the US could face countermeasures worth $294 billion from its global trade partners if Trump decided to pass further tariffs on foreign cars.
Mercosur still pending
The Austrian minister also backed the Commission’s efforts to remove trade barriers around the world and welcomed EU trade boss Cecilia Malmström’s work on agreements with Japan, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia.
A deal with South American trade bloc Mercosur, however, is still far away.
“Here, what we can offer to the Commission is support to continue with the negotiations,” the minister admitted, when asked about the long-gestating trade agreement talks.
“In the long term, the objective is to reduce tariffs,” Schramböck said. Trump is indeed in favour of doing so, “the problem is the way the US is trying to reach that objective”.