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Donald #Trump wants tariff-free trade on goods. Why doesn’t the Commission take him up on it?

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In the looming trade war between the European Union and the United States, the consensus seems to be, that means to avoid this crisis are spare. Jean-Claude Juncker made it clear in a speech in Hamburg that "we also have to be this stupid", in reference to the retaliatory tariffs on a number of American products. US tariffs on steel and aluminium are set to cost Europe tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, writes Bill Wirtz.

Donald Trump has been on the defensive about his steel tariffs ever since they were announced. The US president constantly fires back at EU officials, including by threatening of imposing import tariffs on European automobile imports.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted out that the European Union is treating the U.S "very badly" on trade, but that if Europe would be willing to drop all its tariffs on Americans goods, he would favour dropping theirs as well.

Yes, Donald Trump suggested a tariff-free trade agreement on all goods between the European Union and the United States. However, no reaction came out Brussels after the said tweet on the weekend. In contrary: French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire toured TV stations on Monday in order to make it crystal clear that the EU will take appropriate measure to counter the threat coming from Washington. Le Maire told CNBC that the European response will be "strong" because thousands of jobs and plants are at stake. Where exactly the resoluteness of the French minister came from to speak on behalf of the EU seems unclear.

It's certainly strange that the suggestion of the American president passed unnoticed, given that Council president Donald Tusk tweeted out on Wednesday that the EU and the U.S should pick up frozen trade talks. Surely the Wallonian parliament we be deeee-lighted.

Outside of Twitter diplomacy, one thing is for certain: the announced tariffs on both sides are set to hurt European consumers. Be it blue jeans, bourbon or orange juice: tariffs are paid by the people who buy their products in the store, particularly low-income households. Tariffs are inherently regressive, because expenditures on traded goods are a higher share of income and non-housing consumption among lower income households.

The European Union needs to improve its capacity of making a consistent case for free trade. Since the economic arguments for free trade are of a scientific rather than an ideological nature, it is not surprising that they contain reservations.

For example, consumers in a rich country who trade with producers in a poor country get cheaper products that require unskilled labor, while consumers in poor countries pay less for products. capital-intensive (machines, computers, etc.) and highly specialised labor. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the benefits of free trade are not purely ideological. It is protectionism that seems ideological because it is based on sentimental beliefs. If we were to take nationalism out of the picture, it would be difficult to argue that international free trade would be disadvantageous, whereas domestic free trade (say between cantons or provinces) is advantageous.

Tariffs aren't but a useful tool for the reactionary right- and left-wing extremes of the political spectrums. They reduce the choices of consumers and increase prices for the poorest of the poor. The European Commission should take President up on his suggestion for intercontinental tariff-free trade on goods.

Bill Wirtz is a policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center.

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Italian MEP Vincenzo Sofo joins the ECR Group

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament has decided to take on Italian MEP Vincenzo Sofo as a new member.

Mr Sofo was elected to the European Parliament in 2019. He was one of the three Italian candidates suspended pending the exit of the British Members. On February 1st 2020, Mr Sofo officially took his European Parliament seat. The ECR Group now holds 63 seats in the European Parliament.

After the meeting, ECR Co-Chairman Raffaele Fitto said: “I’d like to welcome Mr Sofo to our Group. He is a trained and competent colleague who has made a political choice consistent with his political path. We are sure that Mr Sofo MEP will be able to make a decisive contribution to the work of our Group, and to our alternative vision of the future of Europe, that is, a community of homelands and nations that cooperate in respect of our different identities and peculiarities.”

ECR Co-Chairman Ryszard Legutko said: “The decision of Mr Sofo shows that our political project, together with the strength of our ideas and our values, is credible and attractive, and from today even stronger and more able to give concrete answers to our citizens in terms of well-being, wealth and security.”

Following the decision, Sofo said: “The European Union is going through one of the most difficult periods in its history, not only from an economic point of view but also from a social and cultural point of view. Surely, it must be profoundly changed to be preserved. Considering the political forces grouped in the European Conservatives and Reformists, they are the ones most able to carry out this task.

“The Conference on the Future of Europe will be a crucial appointment for our Continent and the work that conservative forces will be able to do to correct the mistakes of the European project will be fundamental to straightening its path by strengthening our Nation states and values that have forged its spirit.”

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EU imposes sanctions on Russians linked to Navalny poisoning and detention

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The Council today(2 March) decided to impose restrictive measures on four Russian individuals responsible for serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as widespread and systematic repression of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and freedom of opinion and expression in Russia.

Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, the Prosecutor-General, Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard, and Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Prison Service have been listed over their roles in the arbitrary arrest, prosecution and sentencing of Alexei Navalny, as well as the repression of peaceful protests in connection with his unlawful treatment.

This is the first time that the EU imposes sanctions in the framework of the new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime which was established on 7 December 2020. The sanctions regime enables the EU to target those responsible for acts such as genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations or abuses such as torture, slavery, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests or detentions.

The restrictive measures that entered into force today in follow up to discussions by the Foreign Affairs Council on 22 February 2021 consist of a travel ban and asset freeze. In addition, persons and entities in the EU are forbidden from making funds available to those listed, either directly or indirectly.

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EU

Nine EU-supported films compete in the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The 71st Berlin International Film Festival began on 1 March, this year in its digital edition due to the coronavirus pandemicnine EU-supported films and series, three of which are competing for the highest prize, the Golden Bear: Memory Box by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Nebenan (Next Door) by Daniel Brühl, and Természetes fény (Natural Light) by Dénes Nagy. The EU supported the development and co-production of these nine titles with an investment of over €750 000 that was awarded through the Creative Europe MEDIA programme. Targeted to film professionals and media, the Berlinale film festival is hosting the European Film Market, where the Creative Europe MEDIA programme is active with a virtual stand as well as with the European Film Forum. The Forum that will take place online on 2 March will gather various professionals from the industry to discuss the future perspectives for the audiovisual sector in Europe. The Berlinale will run until 5 March, when the winning films will be announced. The second round of this year's festival, ‘The Summer Special', will take place in June 2021 and will open the films to the public and host the official Award Ceremony. More information is available here.

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