By Jonathan Stearns
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue became the latest American official to face European Union complaints about U.S. threats to global trade rules and punitive tariffs on EU farm goods.
EU agriculture ministers used a working lunch with Perdue on Monday in Brussels to stress the importance of upholding the World Trade Organization, whose ability to settle international commercial disputes has been hobbled by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
The ministers also expressed unhappiness about U.S. tariffs on European wine and cheese as retaliation over illegal subsidies in Europe for planemaker Airbus SE.
“Farmers should not suffer because of international trade conflicts,” EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski told reporters after the talks with Perdue.
The EU is seeking to revive a July 2018 trade truce with the U.S. in a bid to avert an escalation in tit-for-tat tariffs that began when Trump invoked national-security considerations to impose duties on steel and aluminum from Europe.
While Trump has held back on a threat to hit European cars and auto parts with similar levies, both sides have revived old disputes and triggered new ones in recent months as a result of basic disagreements over trade policy.
The EU farm ministers signaled no willingness to meet U.S. demands to loosen the bloc’s better-safe-than-sorry approach to food safety. This stance has led to longstanding European bans on hormone-treated beef and “chlorinated” chicken and to a slow approval process in Europe for genetically modified foods.
“We expect that importers into the EU meet our high standards,” Wojciechowski said. “We will enforce these rules.”