White House

Here’s the beef: Trump formally announces trade pact with European countries

EU will purchase more American beef after U.S. president rattled markets with new China tariffs

Roger Meirick looks over beef and hogs sides hanging in his cooler awaiting processing at Elma Locker & Grocery on July 25, 2018, in Elma, Iowa. President Donald Trump on Friday will announce the EU is buying more American beef. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Updated 2:15 p.m. | President Trump on Friday formally announced an agreement with the European Union under which countries in the bloc will purchase additional amounts of American beef, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

The deal, largely negotiated by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other administration officials, was made possible when Australia and other beef-producing countries renegotiated their agreements with the EU. Under it, the U.S. beef industry will have access to nearly 80 percent of the EU’s yearly quota on hormone-free beef over seven years, European officials announced in July.

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American farmers will initially get 40 percent of that quota, the same officials said earlier this year after the union renegotiated beef deals with Australia, Argentina and Uruguay.

Trump made the formal announcement in the White House’s Roosevelt Room a day after U.S. and global markets tumbled after his announcement he would be slapping 10 percent tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods. That’s on top of 25 percent import duties already in place on around $250 billion in Chinese-made items as the two economic giants deepen their trade war.

He called it a "breakthrough" pact, calling American beef "the best in the world."

"My administration is standing up for our farmers and ranchers like never before," he said. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 280 points on Thursday on the China tariffs news, and opened down another 125 points on Friday (as of 9:47 a.m. EDT). Asian markets closed Friday with substantial declines, and European indexes also dipped amid trade war worries — with Germany’s DAX falling some 287 points.

Administration officials, including Lighthizer, reportedly convinced Trump to return to the White House Thursday night following a campaign rally in Cincinnati to make the announcement on Friday. They are eager to show progress in global trade talks, and want to try easing markets after the China tariffs announcement.

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But their boss showed no signs Thursday evening of easing up on American friends and foes when it comes to trade. He long has contended other countries have “ripped off” the United States — to the detriment of his conservative base in traditionally agricultural — and manufacturing-heavy states.

“The era of economic surrender is over when you look at what they've done to your jobs over a period of time,” the president told supporters in southwest Ohio, a state he needs to win again next year to secure a second term. As he did during his 2016 campaign, Trump already has made a getting-tough-on-other-countries message a big part of his reelection campaign.

The beef pact comes amid broader trade tensions between the United States and its longtime European allies. The president in recent months has threatened to impose tariffs on autos made in Germany and other European countries, and other officials have floated import duties on $25 billion worth of other Euro-made items. 

The rift pits Trump against many of the United States’ largest trading partners, and threatens to further destabilize global markets just as he is gearing up for an aggressive reelection campaign.

In the same July statement, the EU noted the two sides have a “$1 trillion bilateral trade relationship with more than €3 billion in two-way trade every single day. Together both sides count more than 830 million citizens and close to 50% of global Gross Domestic Product. This is the largest economic relationship in the world.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the month the EU put out its statement. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.