The EU and US are each other's most significant trading partners based on broadly similar values and interests that have proved indispensable for the prosperity of both sides of the Atlantic. Ireland and the EU remain fully committed to a continued strong partnership with the US as equal partners. Our long-established relationships provide the basis for continuing economic and trade cooperation.
In the context of current international trade developments, I very much welcome the Joint Statement of 25th July 2018 by President Juncker and President Trump concerning the launching of a new phase in the relationship between the EU and the US, where we agreed to:-
- work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies (on non-auto industrial goods) and to work to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans,
- strengthen strategic energy cooperation to potentially increase US imports of (LNG) to diversify the EU’s energy supply,
- launch a close dialogue on standards to ease trade barriers, reduce bureaucratic obstacles, and slash costs,
- work closely together with like-minded partners to reform the WTO and to address unfair trading practices, including intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, industrial subsidies, distortions created by state owned enterprises, and overcapacity, and
- commit to resolving the steel and aluminium tariff issues and rebalancing tariffs and no further tariff measures unless either party terminates the negotiations.
On 10th September 2018, EU Commissioner Malmström met U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Lighthizer to initiate the Executive Working Group (EWG) established in order to improve trade relations between the US and EU and address each of the topics in the Joint Statement. During 23rd - 26th October 2018, EU officials visited Washington to attend a number of technical meetings to advance the work of the EWG and to meet with a number of US agencies to discuss voluntary regulatory cooperation. Commissioner Malmström met again with USTR Lighthizer on the 14th November in Washington where they had positive discussions on conformity assessment, industrial standards and regulatory cooperation in the pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cybersecurity sectors. It is important to stress that regulatory cooperation will be voluntary and agreed outside any formal trade negotiation with the US.
This EWG is due to publish a report before the end of the year to outline the next steps the EU and US should take to implement the Joint Statement. After the scope of negotiations has been agreed by the EWG, EU Trade Ministers will consider any proposed mandate for the EU Commission to negotiate a formal trade deal with the US.
I have clarified with the EU Commission that agriculture will remain excluded from the scope of any future agreement with the US. Further, my officials and I remain in close consultation with other Departments, colleague Member States and the EU Commission in relation to the ongoing EU-US dialogue on trade. In that context, we will review any draft mandate from the Commission to ensure that Ireland’s interests are fully represented.