EU trade chief warns Biden over ‘Buy American’ push

“U.S. President Joe Biden has already started tightening U.S. rules that force federal authorities to buy from American suppliers. This could run foul of Washington’s commitments at the World Trade Organization (WTO), under which it wins access to other countries’ public procurement markets in exchange for keeping its own market open.

While signaling the EU was worried about Washington’s steps, Dombrovskis stopped just short of saying Biden was breaking WTO rules.

“As regards Buy American, this is something which will require some more in-depth assessment, what are the exact implications, what are the implications for EU companies, what does it mean for U.S. commitments in the WTO framework,” Dombrovskis said.”

The EU can now punish human rights violators all over the world

“the EU signed off on a law that will give the bloc the power to ban travel and freeze assets of individuals and entities involved or associated with violating human rights, including genocide, slavery, extrajudicial arrests and killings, gender-based violence, human trafficking, and other abuses that are “widespread, systematic or are otherwise of serious concern.”

The EU’s adoption of this law is a big deal, both symbolically and practically. One of the European Union’s foundational principles is a commitment to human rights, democracy, and rule of law. But it has sometimes fallen short. This new tool will put some heft behind those commitments.

All 27 EU member states agreed — including some of the democratic-backsliding countries in the bloc like Hungary, which previously held up attempts to pass this kind of EU-wide law.

Practically, this gives the EU a lot more flexibility in whom and what it can target for rights violations. Previously, the EU was mostly limited to applying sanctions in country-specific situations, like a conflict, as in Syria, or for certain issues like terrorism or cyberattacks.

Since this law applies to all EU member states, it cuts violators off from a lot of travel — including nice vacation destinations on, say, the French Riviera — and from accessing and locating assets.”

Rare win for Boris Johnson — but Brexit storm hasn’t passed

“In the very short term, however, it looks like plain sailing for Johnson. The deal, which will be subject to a ratification vote in the U.K. parliament on December 30, is highly likely to pass.

Some Conservative MPs, who have said they will study the deal in depth over the coming days, may quibble over details, but the overall shape of the agreement is — and has been for some time — one that represents a fundamental victory for Brexiteers. The U.K. will leave the EU’s single market and customs union. It will continue to manage its economy under rules similar to those in the EU, but if it wants to change those rules in the future, it has the freedom to (with consequences in the shape of tariffs).

Even on the totemic issue of fisheries, where the U.K. gave ground in the latter stages of the talks, none but the most purist Brexiteer could claim that the final settlement (a five-and-a-half-year transition period to a situation where the U.K. is free to decide who accesses its fishing waters) is not a major change from the status quo.”

“Johnson’s claim during his announcement that there will be “no non-tariff barriers” to trade is not correct. The deal removes tariffs and quotas. It doesn’t remove mountains of new paperwork for firms looking to trade with the EU, as the government’s own copious sets of instructions for businesses testifies.”

The last-gasp Brexit deal negotiations, explained

“The United Kingdom and the European Union have been trying for the last 11 months to negotiate an agreement that will define their future partnership after the UK formally left the bloc in January. But both sides remain stuck on major points — fishing rights, guaranteeing a “level playing field” on government subsidies and regulations, and how to enforce any deal — with very, very little time before the year-end deadline.

Getting a deal is in the interests of both sides, but reaching, ratifying, and implementing any deal in three weeks is going to be a challenge — and might not be feasible at this late stage.

But without any framework, the EU and the UK could face major disruptions in January on everything from trade to transport. It will be painful for both sides, but the UK, now all alone, is expected to feel that fallout more acutely, which will pile on to economic hurt brought on by the pandemic.”

Fear and loathing (of Donald Trump) in the EU

“Of all the innumerable “horrors,” the diplomat said the worst aspect of Trump is the chaos he brings to the world arena: “The lack of being able to plan, the lack of being able to extrapolate from a normal set of facts and arguments what might be a course of action that the United States might take.

“Even if you don’t like it, it’s useful to have an idea of where they are going,” the diplomat said.

Radosław Sikorski, a former Polish defense minister and longtime foreign minister, called Trump’s first term “an extraordinary saga of bluster and incompetence.”

Now a member of the European Parliament and leader of its delegation for U.S. relations, Sikorski said he expected a second Trump term would feature more of the same, including when it comes to the president’s preference for courting authoritarian leaders over traditional, liberal democratic allies.”

Pompeo says U.S. ready to team up on China, but E.U. eyes a post-Trump world

“At the start of Trump’s presidency, EU leaders harbored hopes that the combative president would team up with them to address an array of issues with China, particularly related to trade disputes, on which Beijing had long refused to give any ground. Instead, Trump lumped the EU, and especially Germany, together with China as trade rivals who had taken advantage of the U.S., and even slapped punitive tariffs on EU steel and aluminum products that prompted swift retaliation from Brussels.

And even as Pompeo said he was excited about the new dialogue over China, he reiterated some areas of sharp disagreement between Washington and European allies, including over Trump’s surprise decision to reduce the U.S. military presence in Germany, which Trump has linked to his political disagreements with Berlin, including Germany’s slow increases in military spending and its continued support of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

Pompeo in his speech tried to insist that Trump’s decision was based on a careful “strategic review” of military deployment levels and needs — a point that has been flatly refuted by current and former U.S. military officials.

Given the deep lack of trust, it seems unlikely that much progress will be made discussing China or anything else between now and the November election in the U.S. EU leaders at the moment are intensely focused on debating their new long-term budget and a European Commission proposal for an ambitious economic recovery fund.”