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US and EU meeting: a 'ceasefire' in the trade war

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and US President Donald Trump at the White House on July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

During a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and US President Donald Trump agreed to work towards lowering trade tariffs. While the move sought to ease mounting trade tensions between the US and the EU, it's raised doubts in countries like France.

The move is being described as a "ceasefire" amid an escalating trade war.

The deal includes lowering industrial tariffs -- from both sides -- and increasing US exports of liquefied natural gas and soybeans to Europe.

In addition, both parties agreed that there will be no new tariffs as long as negotiations continue.

Trump said it was a “great day” and “fantastic news”. But for Nicolas Dungan, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC and professor at Sciences Po in Paris, the hero of the day is Jean-Claude Juncker.

Dungan says the move, on Juncker's part, was more a strategic way of appeasing Trump than a concrete trade compromise.

“It is unclear who is going to buy American soybeans, certainly not the European Commission…But it gave Trump enough so Trump could say, 'I got something,'” he said.

However, for Maria Demertzis, deputy director of Brussels-based economic think tank Bruegel, this cannot really be considered a success."A successful outcome of this meeting would have been an elimination of the tariffs on steel and aluminum... It’s good that we haven't escalated but in my view we haven't achieved what is best for the EU."

A skepticism shared by France’s economy minister, Bruno Le Maire. “Each side, the Europeans and the Americans, must find something in these discussions. Any trade deal must be based on reciprocity. We don’t want to enter into a negotiation [on] a wide-ranging deal,” he commented on Thursday.

Trump started a trade war with his European allies several months ago, peaking in June with his decision to impose tariffs on EU steel and aluminum.