EU should bully Trump back on trade policies, says Hogan

EU agriculture commissioner says there is ‘very high probability’ of no-deal Brexit

The European Union must respond to US president Donald Trump's trade policies by "bullying" him back, EU commissioner Phil Hogan has said.

It is only by adopting a hard-line approach towards the US that Mr Trump can be shown "the error of his ways," he told the opening session of the MacGill Summer School in The Glenties, Co Donegal on Monday morning.

The American administration recently announced tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium, causing the European Union to retaliate with similar amounts of tariffs on products made in the US.

Asked if the current wave of populism and protectionism is a passing phase that can be repaired, Mr Hogan said he believes Mr Trump has an excellent chance of being a two term president.


“I think Trump has tapped into this nationalistic mood quite successfully,” he said. “White American, to put it in its crudest terms, in states where they have lost jobs, voted in their droves for Mr Trump and I don’t think they have any reason to change their minds yet.”

The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development said Ireland, as an open-economy which has benefited hugely from globalisation and free-trade, needs to devise a new strategy of by-passing the White House on trade issues.

“We have to go in at the lower level of the administrative system and the federal system, directly to the federal States, rather than having to rely, as we did always, on going to the White House.”

Mr Hogan pointed to concerns about the US offering the UK a quick post-Brexit trade deal in order to destabilise the EU, an offer he termed “false gold”.

“To survive this global trade storm without getting washed away, Ireland must negotiate the middle ground, supporting the EU’s counter-offensive actions while maintaining an open dialogue with US companies headquartered in Dublin.”

It is also vital to distinguish between US industries which support Mr Trump’s protectionist polices, like steel and coal, from those that don’t, like tech and pharma, he said.

The EU is not going to be bullied by Mr Trump and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will convey this to the US president when they meet on Tuesday, Mr Hogan said.

He said within the EU there is a difference of opinion on whether “a hardline or softly-softly approach” should be taken with the US.

“I’m on the side of the hardline approach. You can only deal with someone who is trying to bully you in an irresponsible way by bullying them back,” he said.

“The European Union, with its 500 million people standing together, will ultimately show president Trump the error of his ways.”

A strong, consistent line will “put this man back in his place,” he added.

In the face of Mr Trump's aggressive trade policies, the EU must also stand by countries like Ukraine "which find themselves victims of international power plays." And it must fight alongside China to protect international trade while also pressing it to open itself to investment.

He said: "And let's be honest: after president Trump's disrespectful behaviour towards Germany and the UK during his Europe visit last week which left those of us who love America gob-smacked – no-one is holding their breath for an improvement in his attitude.

“The president thrives in breaking rules and normal standards of good behaviour. Everyone, every nation, no matter how great, needs friends and allies.

After all Europeans built America. The US has always been able to count on Europe and vice versa. It is utter folly to test these bonds to their limits, and potentially beyond.”

Speaking afterwards on the issue of Brexit, Mr Hogan said there is “a very high probability the way things are going” of a no-deal Brexit.

"The turmoil in the House of Commons is a perfect example of it recently. Even if we do a deal will it ultimately be accepted by the House of Commons?" he told The Irish Times.

"There are a lot of imponderables which would lead everyone to believe, and it's certainly the view of the European Commission, that we should prepare for a no-deal Brexit."

However he said the October deadline for the conclusion of negotiations with the UK on Brexit “is realistic”.

“We now know for the first time the British position on something,” referring to the UK Government’s negotiating position document on Brexit which was published two weeks ago.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times