Minister stresses EU unity on trade with US
European Union – Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) – Statement to the press by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, following the Council meeting
Brussels, 22 May 2018
THE MINISTER – On the trade negotiations with the United States, we had a meeting and I was struck by its atmosphere. There’s a twofold desire on the Europeans’ part. Not only determination – you can’t negotiate under threat – but also a desire to be united at a time when certain American interventions are seeking to establish cracks in this bloc we represent. So you can’t negotiate under threat; that means we’re demanding, as a precondition, to be exempted from restrictive measures on steel and aluminium. That’s a precondition. Once that precondition is lifted, we’re ready to discuss a positive agenda, which was also adopted by the heads of state and government in Sofia a few days ago and which, in particular, includes modernizing the WTO. But that’s for when the threat is lifted; then we’re open to that discussion.
And what also struck me was a desire to implement counter-measures if, by any chance, the United States were to take restrictive measures. That’s the spirit of the discussion at the moment, and it hasn’t entirely been completed.
I’ve also heard about my colleague Mike Pompeo’s statements on the situation in Iran; they’re very robust. I note that, on a number of points, we agree in our assessment of the situation. When he worries about Iran’s hegemonic desires in the region, yes, we’re worried too. When he questions Iran about a sort of missile frenzy which has been a defining feature of that country for several years, yes, we’re worried too, particularly since these weapons are subsequently redirected towards militia and groups such as the Houthis and even Hezbollah, which may use them – yes, these are dangers.
But there’s today’s reality, which is an agreement preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and this is the central point we don’t want to get away from, and Iran must remain in the agreement. And we’ve also got to engage with Iran in what we started, moreover, here in Brussels a few days ago; we’ve got to engage in discussions with Iran on the other points, and we’re working on this. So we don’t agree with the unilateral measures taken by the United States, we’ve said this and repeat it following Mr Pompeo’s speech.
Q. – On steel, Mr Trump’s problem is that he wants to conclude mostly bilateral agreements and wants a de facto end to the WTO. What can you propose to him?
THE MINISTER – We’re saying that there’s a precondition first of all, that Europe – since Europe is the United States’ ally –, that restrictions on Europe concerning steel and aluminium are lifted. Afterwards, we’ll discuss all these points, which were approved during the meeting of heads of state and government in Sofia. (…)./.