Joe Biden and the E.U. Move To Lift Trump’s Food Tariffs

“During his first presidential visit to Europe, President Joe Biden and his European Union counterparts..hammered out an important agreement to suspend pointless retaliatory tariffs targeting a host of foods. The Washington Postcalled [the] agreement, which suspends the tariffs for five years, “a significant step in calming trade relations after the fury of the Trump years.””

“It leaves some non-food tariffs still in place. And the agreement could evaporate after five years—or sooner if the E.U. violates the terms of the agreement, notes senior Biden administration official Katherine Tai. This..agreement also doesn’t impact equally lousy Trump-era tariffs on Chinese goods. And, in the wake of Brexit, while the E.U. and the United Kingdom are busy playing tariff games that hurt members of each bloc—including Irish dairy and whiskey producers—there’s always the chance new tariffs could arise and target the United States.”

US and Germany have Nord Stream 2 deal, but lack authority to implement it

“A day after the U.S. and Germany announced a deal allowing the completion of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, top officials conceded that neither the White House nor the Chancellery have the authority to implement some of its most crucial components.

As a huge outcry went up from opponents of the Russia-led pipeline project, Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged that her agreement with President Joe Biden hardly settled their political disagreements, and that much remained uncertain.

“The agreement with the U.S. government does not cement the differences, but it does not overcome all differences either,” Merkel said at a news conference. “The differences remain.” Of the deal, she added: “It is an attempt between the U.S. government and us to set certain conditions that also have to be implemented.

“I am glad that we have succeeded so far,” Merkel continued. “And we also have a lot of tasks ahead.”

Those tasks are hardly small and include overcoming fierce opposition from some members of the United States Congress, persuading some extremely dubious EU countries to get on board, and convincing Russia to liberalize its energy sector, divest itself of the €9.5 billion pipeline, and pay Ukraine some additional €20 billion through 2034 to make up for the loss of gas transit fees — which the new pipeline would effectively render unnecessary.

While some influential Germans — notably former chancellor and current Nord Stream 2 chairman of the board Gerhard Schröder — have been instrumental in securing the pipeline’s completion, Berlin may have little to no influence over Moscow once construction is done and gas is flowing.

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat on the foreign relations committee who co-authored U.S. sanctions legislation targeting the pipeline, said she was “skeptical” of the deal given that “the key player at the table — Russia — refuses to play by the rules.””

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.”