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While seeking relief from Trump’s tariffs, EU considers sanctions on Venezuela

But this course of action didn’t work out quite so well with the Iran deal

Following Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord and reimposition of economic sanctions on the Middle Eastern country, the EU has been on a mission to find ways to work around or diametrically against those sanctions, citing the economic harm that would befall European firms who conduct business with or within Iran.

In this situation, one can see both how following America’s foreign policy, that America doesn’t particularly employ its policy in a manner that legitimately benefits the international community, but rather seeks solely after its own interests, which, in Venezuela, happen to deal with oil. Europe has been slamming the US for this, as of late, declaring that America cannot be perceived as ‘reliable’.

Additionally, the logic that the US employed for justifying its actions in withdrawing from the nuclear proliferation agreement with Iran, brokered under the Obama administration, didn’t truly hold water, and were patently false, especially with regards to the allegations that Iran was violating its role in the deal, which was utterly contradicted by the reports from the international organization which observes and polices Iran’s nuclear enrichment program on a very stringent basis.

This, together with the many other international actions and sanctions programs that America has engaged in have a long history of not being above board, and causing serious collateral damage to the livelihood and safety of millions of people in countries across the globe.

One may consider the Iraq wars, for example, which were embarked upon on the basis that Saddam was developing, and was in possession of, weapons of mass destruction; claims which were proven false, while the war further destabilized the Middle East and has led to untold death, destruction, suffering, and poverty.

Moreover, these actions, which Europe was more than happy to participate in, while cuddling up to Washington, have led to very serious problems for the European bloc, not the least of which is the migration crisis that followed them.

But apparently, Europe hasn’t learned its lesson from all of this, as Europe now proceeds to follow Washington’s lead and foreign policy relative to Venezuela, echoing allegations that Sunday’s presidential elections were illegitimate, despite the fact that over 150 international elections observers, including a former Spanish president, are declaring otherwise.

France24 reports:

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that “the EU and its member states will consider the adoption of adequate measures” as a result of the vote.

The elections took place “without complying with the minimum international standards for a credible process, not respecting political pluralism, democracy, transparency and rule of law,” the statement said.

It also cited “major obstacles” to the Venezuelan opposition taking part, adding that “numerous reported irregularities during the election day, including vote buying, stood in the way of fair and equitable elections”.

The reaction from Brussels came after President Donald Trump ratcheted up the pressure on Maduro following what the United States called a “sham” election by tightening American sanctions on Caracas.

Probably the best explanation for the EU’s thinking on this issue is that Europe is intending to use its solidarity with Washington’s perspective on Venezuela as a potential leverage while they attempt to negotiate with the Trump administration in a bid for a reprieve against Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, which also considers opening up Europe to American natural gas, as well as a limited trade deal, in much the same manner as was extended to the Chinese. The natural gas component, of course, is considered at a time while a cooperation with Russia to complete the North Stream 2 project is underway with Germany being the main European partner, providing another pipeline of Russian LNG to Europe.

The AFP reports:

The EU’s top trade official warned Tuesday that the bloc’s last-ditch bid to persuade US President Donald Trump to back off from stiff tariffs on metals imports from Europe was likely insufficient, as divisions emerged on how to face Washington.

Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom spoke as the EU’s 28 trade ministers met in Brussels to discuss an attempt to win a similar reprieve to the one handed to China, in time for a June 1 deadline.

They discussed a plan laid out by EU leaders last week for concessions including a limited EU-US trade deal as well as opening up the European market to US natural gas — if the exemption is granted.

“Is this going to be enough? I’m not sure frankly,” Malmstrom told a press conference after the talks.

Europe was hit by the shock steel and aluminium tariffs in March, part of the protectionist president’s threat of an “America First” trade war with Washington’s closest partners, including Canada, Mexico and Japan.

The US has twice suspended the duties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminium as talks with key allies continued.

“If we are exempted, then we are willing to engage in talks and see how we can facilitate trade relations,” said Malmstrom ahead of a closed door session of which very few details emerged.

She has spearheaded a series of talks with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a stalwart of Trump’s hardball tactics.

– ‘Allies, not vassals’ –

Europeans have struggled to align on how to respond to the Trump threat, with export powerhouse Germany calling for patience and France and the Netherlands urging a tougher line.

“We are allies but we are not vassals. Today is a moment of truth for the EU,” said French trade minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.

But German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier warned of the dangers of souring ties with Europe’s closest ally.

“With an escalation not only on steel, but also other products, and also with regard to problems with Iran, Russia, we risk a lot more then just economic repercussions,” said Altmaier, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

To bridge the positions, the European Commission, the EU trade arm, has said it will refuse all trade talks with the United States unless Washington grants a permanent exemption from the tariffs at the end of the month.

But it is also discussing the concessions that the EU leaders agreed at a summit in Sofia last week.

Europe’s incentives come with a threat to retaliate against the US with European tariffs on American imports, including iconic items such as Harley-Davidson motorbikes and bourbon whiskey.

These counter-measures will officially become enforceable on June 20, but Germany is urging not to use them as long as talks with the US are ongoing.

– ‘Limited’ deal –

Any attempt to negotiate a trade deal, no matter how small, requires a mandate from member states.

The “limited” deal on offer would focus in particular on cars, a strategic sector that Trump has brought sharp attention to in several tweets that specifically targeted Germany — an auto powerhouse on its own.

EU leaders insist that there is no chance of relaunching the very unpopular TTIP talks, the major EU-US trade agreement torpedoed by Trump when he entered office last year.

At the request of the United States, Europeans are also ready to “deepen relations” in energy matters, in particular in the field of liquefied natural gas.

As a result of the shale gas boom, the US is avidly seeking new export markets and wants to compete with Russia and Norway, the EU’s current main gas suppliers.

The Europeans had a sort of diarrhea of the mouth last week as they reeled from Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, with all kinds of nasty things being said about Trump and his foreign policy. So now, the Europeans want a deal, and they are willing to compromise, as well as show forth their resolve by possibly sanctioning Venezuela. But that didn’t work out so well with the JCPOA.

Heads of State from Britain, France, and Germany, travelled to Washington to schmooze Trump into sticking with the Iran nuclear agreement, and Britain and France even showed just how good of a friend they were by joining in on a coordinated illegal military strike on Syria. But despite their pleas, and despite their now once again proven solidarity with Washington’s interests, Trump still went ahead and pulled out of the multilateral agreement.

With an immediate history of snubbing Europe’s interests, and a willingness to contravene them, is it really all that likely that Trump will compromise with Europe on the trade tariffs? But then, he just did something of the like with China. But China hasn’t been one of those partners in crime with America, and doesn’t have the same geopolitical interests that America has, so by cutting a compromise with Beijing, Washington technically has more ground to be gained by working with them, as well as averting a trade war that would severely impact the American economy.

Europe, on the other hand, can’t say the same, and their situation is a little bit different. Europe has a history of caving in to Washington, hence, there is no fear of loss for the Americans, as they’re pretty confident that they’ve got Europe in their hip pocket, and that they can dangle along Europe as far as they wish, regardless of how much they complain.

Therefore, the Europeans don’t have as much bargaining power, no trump cards to be played. China had the power to do real damage to the American economy, while the Europeans have far less clout, and a far weaker position at the table of international affairs relative to the USA, so it may not be as likely that the Europeans will get the answer they’re looking for, unless the USA thinks that it can use this as part of an arrangement to strike out at Russia’s North Stream project. Even if so, Washington likely won’t fondly consider that they had to go through all of this just to get Europe to capitulate on the matter, as the Europeans are supposed to be asking how high Washington wants them to jump, instead of trying to negotiate the action altogether.

 

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