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Despite the European Union (EU) saying just eight months ago it would not sign any trade agreements with countries not party to the Paris climate treaty—a pledge aimed particularly at the United States after President Donald Trump started the process of withdrawing from the agreement—it seems the EU has reconsidered its stance. Climate Home News is reporting the EU is in the process of negotiating two trade agreements with the United States.
With U.S. tariffs on European steel, cars, and other goods looming, evidently the EU fears economic losses from a trade war with the United States more than the possible harms from climate change, as the European Parliament’s Committee for International Trade (CIT) endorsed opening talks on two trade agreements with the United States without any Paris treaty preconditions.
CIT’s decision flies in the face of a July 2018 European Parliament nonbinding resolution to “make ratification and implementation of the Paris Agreement a condition for future trade agreements.” Although recent trade deals with Japan and Mexico included references to the Paris climate agreement, CIT voted 21-17 to proceed to negotiate trade deals with the United States without any references to participation in the Paris climate agreement.
In doing so, CIT rejected a resolution of its own Chairman, Bernd Lang, to reject trade talks with the United States, in which Lang expressed “deep regret” over “the withdrawal of the US from the ‘Paris Agreement.’” In order not to appear to be abandoning its principles, CIT’s resolution indicates fealty to the Paris climate agreement is only a precondition for comprehensive trade talks, but since it is only moving forward with more limited trade deals, not a comprehensive free trade agreement, its decision does not violate the European Parliament’s resolution.
“[The] recommendations refer to a limited agreement and not a comprehensive free trade agreement; therefore [CIT] considers that those agreements should represent an exception dictated by specific circumstances and in any case not a precedent for the European Union in future negotiations,” said the resolution CIT adopted.
Despite calls by environmental lobbyists for the French government to fight the EU’s decision, Pierre Chabrol, director of trade policy in France’s Department of Treasury, told Climate Home News the agreement does not violate French President Emmanuel Macron’s call to “weaponize trade in defense of the Paris Agreement.”
As Climate Home News reported, Chabrol said that “Macron’s commitments only applied to large trade deals like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). ‘The reach of these two [trade] mandates is more restrained and the situation is different.’”