The Office of the United States Trade Representative publishes an annual report on foreign trade barriers. In the 2017 report it lists a whole series of complaints against the European Union, many of them long-standing, on barriers to US exports. If we pick just four of them we can see a picture emerging.
Firstly, the report makes this complaint: “The EU requires that for a product to be labeled ‘whiskey’ (or ‘whisky’), it must be aged a minimum of three years. … Recent advances in barrel technology enable U.S. micro-distillers to reduce the aging time for whiskey.” I am no expert in whisky (or “whiskey”) but I do know who Trump would back in a trade dispute over this. Why stock your hotels with three-year old whisky when you can stock it with much cheaper three-week old “whiskey”?
Another beef – pun intended – is with the EU prohibition on growth promotants in the meat industry, in particular hormones. The loss to the U.S. is estimated at $116.8 million, enough to cause a retaliatory 100% tariff slapped on certain EU imports. Now who is Trump going to back over this?
Thirdly, we come to genetically modified crops, GM as it is known here, “GE” for genetically engineered crops in the States. This is a huge battle, raging for as long as the “whiskey”-whisky issue, and guess how much “GE” Trump must have eaten since its introduction in the USA? I don’t know, but it’s clear who he will side with.
Fourthly, there is the issue of EDCs as they are known here – endocrine disruptor chemicals – or just “ED”s as they are known as in the States. These are present in a huge range of plastics and furnishings such that a recent study has suggested they are a significant cause of obesity due to their presence in ingested household dust. In this instance it is their presence in pesticides that is concerning the USA. The report comments:
While the United States shares public health concerns with respect to EDs, the United States is concerned that the EU appears to be contemplating approaches to regulating these compounds that are not based on scientific principles and evidence, thereby restricting trade without improving public health.
Similar sentiments are expressed over many such products that the EU have raised barriers to, that the EU’s concerns are not based on scientific principles. Whose scientific principles, one wonders? And which set of scientific principles, European or American, will Trump be inclined to favour or “favor”?
Now, picture the UK going cap in hand for a “great” trade deal with the USA. Yes, it looks like we will be drinking “whiskey” made yesterday, eating beef that gives you man-boobs, ingesting lots more EDCs, eating Frankenstein foods, and that’s just for starters. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
What I don’t know
I don’t know whether the complaint made by the European Union that local procurement across the USA is closed to EU goods and services will be raised by the UK trade negotiating team. It hardly seems like a good time to mention it though.