EU Steps up Trade Measures amid Disputes with the US

By Joyce Yu

Philadelphia, PA–In responding to US protectionism, the EU is not only getting tough on corporate America, but also stepping up its efforts to deepen trade relations with China and Japan amid frictions with the US. On Wednesday, Google was was ordered by the European Commission to pay €4.34 billion ($5 billion) for unfairly pushing its apps on smartphone users and squeezing out competitors. Google said it would appeal.

The fine which is the largest ever imposed by the European Commission, reflects the “seriousness and sustained nature” of the violations, said EU antitrust chief Vestager. Having been investigated for three years, Google was already fined by EU antitrust for €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion). Apple, Amazon and Facebook have also been penalized by European regulators.

While dealing American companies with an iron hand, EU knows well “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Following the EU-China annual meeting on Monday, both parties reiterated the importance of deepening bilateral partnership. “In today’s world that partnership is more important than ever before. Our cooperation simply makes sense”, said the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. “We have made progress on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment through a first exchange of offers on market access, and towards an agreement on Geographical Indications. That shows that we want to create more opportunities for people in China and in Europe.” The communique jointly issued after the summit also talks about possible collaborations in areas of wine, food safety, among others.

Also dragged into trade conflicts with the US is Japan who just signed a trade deal with the EU on Tuesday, cutting or eliminates tariffs on nearly all goods. Covering a third of the world’s economy and almost a third of the global economy, the agreement will remove tariffs on European exports such as cheese and wine. Japanese automakers and electronics firms will face fewer barriers in the European Union. Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, hailed the agreement as the “largest bilateral trade deal ever.”

The trade deal, which is expected to come into force in 2019 after being approved by lawmakers on both sides, is the “largest bilateral trade deal ever”, said Donald Tusk, president of the European Council. Trade between Japan and the European Union last year was roughly €129 billion ($152 billion).

Baker McKenzie partner Ross Denton told the CNN that the EU-Japan deal sends “a very strong signal to the US Administration that the EU and Japan, two major trade partners of the US, both see the benefits of removing barriers and reducing, not increasing tariffs.”

Europe was willing to lower some of its tariffs and cooperate with the United States, but it was rejected by the Trump administration, who in turn slapped tariffs on EU steel and aluminum, said EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström last month. New American tariffs on European cars could follow soon.

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