In his riotous, and therefore quite amusing, press conference last week, US President Trump, among other things, sketched out his intended policy on trade:
Let me list to you some of the things that we’ve done in just a short period of time. I just got here. And I got here with no cabinet. Again, each of these actions is a promise I made to the American people.
I’ll go over just some of them and we have a lot happening next week and in the weeks — in the weeks coming. We’ve withdrawn from the job-killing disaster known as Trans Pacific Partnership. We’re going to make trade deals but we’re going to have one on one deals, bilateral. We’re going to have one on one deals.
So it is not that he wants to have no trade agreements at all, it is that he thinks he will cut better deals when negotiating bilateral rather than regional agreements.
One might, and many economists will, question the wisdom of such a policy. But with regard to the counties involved in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), such as Japan, or Korea, this is – at least – a possible approach.
With regard to the EU, by contrast, the bilateral approach cannot work. The US cannot negotiate a free trade agreement with, say, Germany, because Germany cannot negotiate a trade agreement with the US. In the EU, trade policy is an exclusive competence of the EU, and individual Member State cannot, therefore, make their own trade deals.
Trump will either have to negotiate with the EU as a whole, or wait for its complete disintegration.
Current trade talks between the US and to the EU on the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) came to a halt shortly before the US Presidential elections. It is unclear whether and when they will be resumed.