In response to threats of retaliation by the EU over his announcment of steel/aluminum tariffs, President Trump has been complaining about high EU trade barriers. Here's a recent tweet of his:
If the E.U. wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on U.S. companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S. They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!
And here's something he said yesterday:
"The European Union has been particularly tough on the United States," Mr Trump said at Tuesday's joint press conference with the Swedish prime minister.
"They make it almost impossible for us to do business with them," Mr Trump complained.
President Trump is right: EU trade barriers are too high. In addition, U.S. trade barriers are also too high. Here's something I wrote a few years ago about tariffs:
In the context of the recently launced US-EU free trade talks (formally, the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” or TTIP), commentators have noted that tariffs between the US and EU are low, and thus the key part of the talks will deal with so-called regulatory barriers to trade. An article in Inside U.S. Trade observes: “Overall, the U.S. average tariff rate is 3.5 percent, although the average tariff rate on goods that the EU actually shipped to the U.S. last year was even lower, at 1.2 percent, … .”
But these average figures mask some significant “tariff peaks.” There are lots of individual tariff rates, so if many are low or zero, that makes the average figure fairly low; nonetheless, there are plenty of high tariffs still out there. The same article points out some US and EU tariff rates that may come up during the negotiations. Here is the US:
— U.S. light trucks tariff of 25 percent; a tariff on wool sweaters of 16 percent; a tariff on sardines of 20 percent; a tariff on tuna of 35 percent; and a tariff on leather at 20 percent
Here is the EU:
— applied tariffs on honey of 17.3 percent; carrots at 13.6 percent; potatoes at 14.4 percent; strawberries at 20.8 percent; lemons at 12.8 percent, beef at 12 percent; and lamb at 12 percent
And all of those tariffs add up:
— the U.S. collected about $4.5 billion in tariffs from EU products in 2012. … [Of this amount,] $900 million comes from imported German cars; about $260 million comes from Italian clothes and shoes; and about $72 million comes from cheese imports.”
And regulatory trade barriers are even higher.
So perhaps there's a way out of the back and forth threats of tariff retaliation going on right now: The two sides could restart the TTIP talks, and bring down barriers on both sides.