The deal made between Donald Trump and the president of the European Commission marks a de-escalation in trade tensions. Its content and Europe’s concessions, however, remain vague.
Jean-Claude Juncker arrived in Washington with the somewhat crazy hope of convincing an unreasonable president, Donald Trump, to be reasonable. It was a successful gamble on the verbal field: the president of the European Commission – helped by the economic environment on the other side of the Atlantic – succeeded in improving the American head of state’s disposition regarding Europe. It is proof that the “crazy strategy” of being unpredictable, chosen by the occupant of the White House, can also de-escalate tensions. Above all, it shows that things are being put back into perspective. The United States and Europe have common interests; their priority is to fight together against truly unfair practices, like those of China, for example. For this reason, gathering around the table is preferable.
No Date, No Numbers
The tone has changed, and that is a good thing. The tense climate between the two sides of the Atlantic was beginning to pose economic risks. Now, what is the most important thing to remember about the content? The content of the “deal” is too imprecise for us to know exactly what is going to happen – no date, no numbers, just like with the North Korean agreement! Beyond the cease-fire, Europe avoids increased taxation on its automobile exports, which created panic among the Germans; in return, Europe offers to import more American soybeans and gas, although the scope of these offers is uncertain. It can be said that between those that renounce a threat and those that agree to an opening in exchange for cold, hard cash, it is the former that have hit the jackpot in the short term. It is true, especially since taxes on steel are still in place and not a word has been said about America’s power over the sanctions against Iran. But Europe was satisfied by the – possible but uncertain – return of multilateralism in the foreseeable future.
Berlin Is Satisfied, Paris Criticizes
This shift from Trump should be taken with appropriate caution, as stability is not his main trait. Each European capital will also discover what is in it for them, as seen by contrasting Berlin’s satisfaction with Paris’s reservations. In reality, it is possible that the U.S president’s new attitude is due to his fiasco during the meeting with Vladimir Putin last week. He gave the impression that he treats the Russian leader better than he treats his European allies; that has been set straight. But we observe it another way. Juncker certainly took the opportunity to go to Washington at the right time and was able to get something that neither Emmanuel Macron nor Angela Merkel have been able to. But he also showed that, far from being the technocrat depicted by populists, the European executive can play politics … and public relations.