United States junked by Juncker as preferred EU trading partner

The head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker failed to mention the United States in the list of countries Brussels wants to conclude trade agreements with in the coming years, during his speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday.

“With the help of the European Parliament, we have just secured a trade agreement with Canada that will provisionally apply as of next week. We have a political agreement with Japan on a new economic partnership. By the end of the year, we have a good chance of doing the same with Mexico and South American countries. And today, we are proposing to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand,” Juncker said.

The European Commission’s term of office runs until October 31, 2019.

Before Donald Trump’s election as the US President, Washington and Brussels were actively negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade agreement. Trump canceled the TPP agreement with Asian countries as he dislikes multilateral trade agreements. Talks on TTIP have stalled, too.

In his speech, Juncker insisted Europe wants deals that would be profitable for the bloc, not only the other side.

“Let me say once and for all: we are not naïve free traders. Europe must always defend its strategic interests,” he said.

Relations between long-term allies America and Europe have strained in the last few months. Recently Washington unilaterally imposed sanctions against the Russian energy sector over alleged meddling in US presidential elections by Moscow. The EU said the sanctions could backfire on European countries working with Russia.

Juncker didn’t mention the world’s second largest economy China as a preferred trade partner, either. He also hinted that Chinese acquisitions of European infrastructure should be checked more thoroughly.

“If a foreign, state-owned, company wants to purchase a European harbor, part of our energy infrastructure or a defense technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate,” Juncker said.

China’s COSCO Shipping already has a majority stake in Greece’s biggest port, Piraeus, and a share of a terminal at Europe’s largest port, Rotterdam.

Germany, France, and Italy praised Juncker’s speech on tighter oversight of foreign acquisitions of European property.

“Europe and of course Germany are and will remain open to investment from abroad. But we need to prevent other states from taking advantage of our openness in order to push through their industrial policy interests,” German Economic Affairs Minister Brigitte Zypries said in a joint statement with France and Italy.

“The EU must be ready to stand up for its interests and protect itself – in particular when competition is not fair, and we are dealing with important national strategic interests,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

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