European Officials Invite Trump to EU-U.S. Summit

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By Rossella Brevetti and Bengt Ljung

Nov. 9 — Top EU officials Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker invited U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to visit Europe for an EU-U.S. summit at “your earliest convenience.”

“This conversation would allow for us to chart the course of our relations for the next four years,” European Council President Tusk and European Commission President Juncker said in a letter of congratulations.

The letter cited a number of challenges, including negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Opposition to trade deals—most notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—was a key plank of Trump's campaign message.

“We should consolidate the bridges we have been building across the Atlantic. Europeans trust that America, whose democratic ideals have always been a beacon of hope around the globe, will continue to invest in its partnerships with friends and allies, to help make our citizens and the people of the world more secure and more prosperous,” the European leaders said.

EU foreign ministers will convene Nov. 13 to assess, among other things, what Trump's election means for trans-Atlantic relations, according to an EC spokeswoman.

Following Trump's victory, Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, tweeted: “U.S. ties are deeper than any change in politics. We'll continue to work together, rediscovering the strength of Europe.”

The fate of TTIP was already unclear before Trump's surprise victory. The mammoth trade deal had been dealt a blow by Britain's decision to exit the European Union.

Tim Bennett, head of the Trans-Atlantic Business Council, told Bloomberg BNA that the U.S. and EU are pushing to complete as much technical work as possible on the TTIP text prior to Jan. 19, before entering a “pause” phase to allow the next administration's trade team to get up and running.

“During this period of suspended negotiations, I believe the new Administration will determine that a TTIP agreement would clearly be a net economic and political positive for the U.S. and then use conclusion of a TTIP agreement as the first vehicle for establishing a reasonable trade policy that is good for America,” Bennett said.

Uncertainty, Hope

Other European politicians said they were unsure about what would happen to EU-U.S. trade relations and TTIP.

“Everything remains to be seen. The only thing which is sure is uncertainty, ”Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice President for jobs, growth and investments, told a news conference in Brussels.

He said he had heard Trump's anti-trade rhetoric during the campaign, but hoped that Trump would act differently as president.

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem pointed out at the same news conference that Trump's anti-trade statements mostly had taken aim at the TPP deal and NAFTA.

“TTIP has simply not been on the radar. TTIP hasn't been seen as controversial. Also, TTIP isn't done yet,” she said.

The European Commission and the Obama administration will take stock where the negotiations are at the end of the year, she said. After that, she expected a natural break for a few months when the new president and his administration take office.

“There's still a very good case to have TTIP, to facilitate trade between the two biggest economies in the world,” Malmstroem said.

Katainen underlined that TTIP has broad support in the U.S., not the least from U.S. businesses.

When asked about Trump's threat to pull the U.S. out of the World Trade Organization, Malmstroem said she hopes very much that the U.S. will stay.

“It's an important international trade organization with 163 members and the United States has been a very important partner,” she said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Rossella Brevetti in Washington at rbrevetti@bna.com and Bengt Ljung in Brussels at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

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