European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström ‘We Won’t Allow Ourselves to Be Blackmailed’

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. The European Union will set out its strategy Wednesday on how to counter potential U.S. punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

In an interview with DER SPIEGEL, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, 50, says the EU won’t negotiate “until Trump stops pointing the gun at our chest.” But, she adds, Europe would much prefer compromise over aggression.

Interview Conducted by Christian Reiermann and Peter Müller
European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström
May 18, 2018


DER SPIEGEL: Ms. Malmström, have you already sent your congratulations to U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross?

Malmström: I don’t see why I would do such a thing.

DER SPIEGEL: The two have successfully blackmailed the European Union. The EU is now ready to negotiate lower tariffs with the U.S. on things such as American automobiles.

Malmström: Hang on. We won’t allow ourselves to be blackmailed and we don’t negotiate when someone puts a gun to our heads. I have made this very clear to my American counterparts over and over again. Only when it is certain that the U.S. will not impose punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum from the EU will we be prepared to discuss those issues that are important to President Trump.

DER SPIEGEL: The decision is to be made on June 1. Do you have any idea how Trump might ultimately decide?

Malmström: My impression is that there will be a permanent decision in one direction or another. Wilbur Ross and I have spoken on the phone maybe 10 times in the past few weeks. I will be meeting with him in Paris in a few days. I have made it very clear that we want to be permanently exempted from punitive tariffs. They violate the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and are completely unjustifiable. But I cannot guarantee such a result. The final decision will be made by President Trump, and we have seen that his decisions can go either way.

DER SPIEGEL: Do you have the impression that Trump and his trade representatives are even open to rational arguments?

Malmström: I hope so. My impression is that Secretary Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are close to the president and are negotiating on his behalf. They are extremely loyal to Trump, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to us.

DER SPIEGEL: When Trump recently decided to grant the EU another reprieve until June 1, your agency’s reaction was almost churlish.

Malmström: Yes. This isn’t a game. We are talking about 25 percent punitive tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. There is a lot of money at stake. And more than that, the uncertainty is hurting companies; all of this has taken far too long. To be clear, it is better for our companies to have a bad decision and clarity now than to perhaps have some prospect of improvement in the distant future. This uncertainty is already having negative economic effects. It hurts us all.


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