No Deal: Trump Offers Zero-Tariff Deal, EU Refuses


Germany is in a bind. It wants a tariff deal to save its car manufacturing. The rest of the EU would rather fight.

The Washington Times reports No deal: EU resists Trump's zero-tariff trade offer, prepares new list of sanctions to add pressure.

President Trump offered European nations and other countries a zero-tariff deal as a way out of an escalating trade war, but so far he has no takers despite a zero-tariff agreement signed last week between the European Union and Japan.

The EU so far would rather fight than deal.

In retaliation against the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs, the EU imposed tariffs on $3.25 billion of American-made staples including bourbon and motorcycles.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who will accompany Mr. Juncker to Washington this week, said they will bring a new list of U.S. goods targeted for sanctions if Mr. Trump doesn’t back down.

The EU imposes a 10 percent tariff on passenger cars, compared with the 2.5 percent U.S. duty on European autos. A study by the CESifo Institute in Germany found unweighted average EU tariffs of 5.2 percent, compared with the U.S. rate of 3.5 percent.

“The EU is by no means the paradise for free traders that it likes to think,” Gabriel Felbermayr, director of the think tank’s Center for International Economics, told the German business newspaper Handelsblatt.

At last month’s meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations, Mr. Trump floated the idea of zero tariffs to leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Tariff-Free Proposal

“Ultimately that’s what you want. You want tariff-free, no barriers, and you want no subsides because you have some countries subsidizing industries, and that’s not fair. So you go tariff-free, you go barrier-free, you go subsidy-free. That’s the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance,” said Trump.

That's correct. But Wharton also teaches that it's best to have no tariffs regardless of what the other guy does.

Wharton explains U.S. Import Tariffs: Why the Cost Will Be High.

The tariffs – 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum – will jeopardize U.S. ties with longstanding allies and raise prices of goods that use steel and aluminum, thus hurting demand, investment in factories and jobs on both sides of the equation, they warned. Retaliatory tariffs are inevitable, and the matter could face drawn-out challenges at the World Trade Organization, they said.

According to Ann Harrison, Wharton professor of management and business economics and public policy, the tariff move is “shocking,” both because few expected Trump to follow through on his threats to do so, and because it involved the closest allies of the U.S.

Desperate for a Deal

Eurointelligence says Germany is desperate for a deal. The rest of the EU? Not.

In the political sphere, unlike other commentators we see no evidence that the German position on trade tariffs is prevailing at the EU level. The Germans are desperate to cut a deal with Trump. At the G20 meeting of finance ministers in Buenos Aires, Bruno Le Maire said France will not even negotiate with the US for so long as Trump maintains punitive tariffs on steel and aluminium. He says the EU would not negotiate with anyone who points a gun at them.

We don’t think that this comparison is just. The EU has been collecting more tariffs on cars than the US. If the EU refuses to talk, it would suffer a massive economic shock given its dependence on exports. We note a comment by Christine Lagarde in Buenos Aires who said global growth could be hit by 0.5 percentage points. We don’t think this figure capture the true dynamics of a trade war.

Over the weekend Trump has now widened his arguments in the trade conflict to include macroeconomic management, as he accused both China and the Eurozone of manipulating their currencies. This is a serious charge in the context of the US's own laws. If a country is deemed to be a currency manipulator, the president has the right to impose punitive tariffs, without having to resort to a national security justification as is currently the case.

FAZ is shocked to learn that Trump was now attacking the independence of the ECB. We note that a policy to devalue the euro and to eliminate fiscal deficits were central planks of the EU’s eurozone rescue strategy. There can be no question that these policies had an external impact on the rest of the world - which had to absorb the eurozone's now sizeable current account surplus. It is much harder to accuse the EU of unfair trade practices than to criticise its macro policies. For the former one would have to deep-dive into issues such as non-tariff barriers, but the macroeconomic imbalances are there for everybody to see.

In his FT column Wolfgang Munchau writes that the EU is not in a position to fight and win a trade war. The best strategy for the EU would be to take a two-pronged approach. First, take Trump’s trade tariffs on the chin, a decision that would benefit Germany and the Netherlands more than the other member states. The quid-pro-quo for such a policy would be a binding obligation on countries to reduce their current account surpluses to under 3% of GDP or thereabouts. With such a dual approach, the EU as a whole would gain. There would be no trade war. And the EU would finally start to address the underlying issues that gave rise to this trade war. Munchau concludes that he ultimately does not think the EU would take such action, as so far it has shown no inclination to solve the underlying issues, preferring to paper over cracks as they arise. 

Rather Fight Than Switch

No one is willing to back down. Not Trump, not the EU, not Japan, not China.

The 1960s Tareyton cigarette commercial comes to mind. The Tareyeton slogan was "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch."

I blended a couple of images together to create the lead-in image.

Munchau's conclusion is correct. The EU will not move to solve the underlying issues, preferring to paper over cracks as they arise.

Curiously, that must be.

Unsolvable Problem? Why?

  1. Because France will never give up its agricultural tariff policy.
  2. Bickering between France and Germany is on the rise. Germany is hurt far more than France over the auto squabble.
  3. This is not just a France-Germany issue. To make a treaty change, and tariffs are a treaty change, every nation in the EU must sign off on it. Re-read point number 1.

It took over a decade for the EU to negotiate a simple trade treaty with Canada. It nearly failed and took as long as it did because one country didn't like it.

Escalation Out of Control

Given the above, the most likely course of action is the trade war will escalate out of control.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (13)
No. 1-13

An obvious RED HERRING...ANTI CHRIST TRUMP lies whenever he opens his mouth..that MISH and his sullen band of misfit FLIB-ERTARIANS would parrot anything from Damian Thorn Trump, aka Anti Christ, is laughable and ludicrous...Trade will go on with or without tariffs...Just get ready for war and pushing out those 'investments' with the "flight to safety" label.


Not true about Trump not backing down. I believe he has now shown his ultimate goal: no tariffs, no subsidies. Throw them into panic by threatening tariffs that will really hurt, then give them the better overall solution, and the way it should be.


Do you believe Anti Christ Trump really understand tariffs...This has Bannon, Miller and Gourkas written all over this...but Trump is PURE EVIL!


Brexit is turning into a basket case. If UK could be as forceful it would probably help bring down barriers as both US and UK would turn away together. Some concerted effort.


Trump wants a real free trade deal with no loophole tariffs

So he must be a nazi....


I'd like to see some models on both the pros and cons of various tariffs; there is a lot of screaming about them and the negatives. But what about the positives?


Comparing unweighted tarifs is meaningless BS. Weighted tarifs show both the EU and US charging about 1.6%. The US has an export surplus with the EU for goods+services. The idea that subsidies are an unfair trade advantage makes no sense. How can other countries get rich off the US when their governments are subsidizing US consumers at the cost of their own tax payers? Getting rid of all subsidies sounds good, but is a quagmire. How about huge agricultural subsidies in the USA? Are different tax policies implicit subsidies? How about infrastructure, or land deals, or financial facilities? How about a VAT which is a a de facto encouragement of exports and discouragement of imports. How about differences in regulatory climate, exploitation of labour, lack of pollution standards. ... It is far from simple to agree that trading partners share a level playing field. Too complicated to even begin.


Actually I think Trump is trying to soften the EU for the UK. Either Trump gets a good deal, which sets a precedent for UK negotiations; or he creates a two pronged attack with the UK. There is a lot of divide and conquer implied with Trump's offer of no-tariffs. This is a yuge battle of sociopaths.


Webej is correct. You have to compare weighted tariffs

US. 1.61% Europe 1.60% Japan 1.35% New Zealand 1.27% Australia 1.17% Norway 1.02% Canada 0.85%

And those numbers are before Trumps new tariffs. Compared to other industrialized countries, the US is actually more protectionist. Trump just cherry picks a few numbers and makes the rest up.


"Given the above, the most likely course of action is the trade war will escalate out of control."

Unlikely. When push comes to shove, the politicians will find a way to save their skin by coming to an agreement, even meaningless ones, and parade victory. More so in the EU. Example: Merkel: Screw Greece->Welcome immigrants to shore up image->lose elections->stitch up an alliace->showdown among partners over immigration->patch up an agreement->parade victory.

True of all countries!


The Swedish government will pump 5 million Swedish crowns ($564,000 USD) into migrant sex courses according to news outlet.

Why take these guys in and spend money (that could have been better used) on them? Tax-payers' money spent without a by-your-leave. And not a whimper from the Swedes. Who gives the right to the politicians to spend money as they see fit when it is not theirs? It is time to ask pointed questions to the politicians. May be time for another version of 'No Taxation Without Represention' movement.

Politicians work on this principle...

Bluster (Public posturing) but never pull trigger (be mindful of which side of the bread is buttered).


OK all you EU apologists... tell us again how the EU survives?

Fatally flawed construct from Day One. The Brits should be running, nee sprinting for the exit. Further, this tariff issue is just another example/straw that is breaking the German camel's back... forget the PIIGS - Germany has more/serious reasons to ditch the EU themselves first.


There are immediate benefits for those precious few who currently can't compete, but will under a tariff umbrella be able to raise the prices they charge US customers. Over time, the same underlying dysfunctions than rendered them uncompetitive in the first place, will render them uncompetitive again.

Long term, the only (and even they mostly relatively) beneficiaries, are the usual cadre of leeches. Who produce nothing, create nothing and add no value. But who instead live off of forcefully inserting themselves, with the help pf government, into the value chains of others. Lobbyists, lawyers, bureaucrats, deal makers, high placed financiers, fixers, people with connections etc. IOW, people who productive people will happily route around if free to do so, but who suddenly get promoted to positions of prominence by virtue of government intervention, and government intervention only.

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