European negotiators “will need to sweat through another month of heat” as Donald Trump’s administration “presses them for more concessions”, says Tory Newmyer in The Washington Post. Although the US president decided “at the 11th hour” to delay the planned tariffs on industrial metals until June, he is still demanding “quotas that would limit European imports”. Europeans, meanwhile, are baulking “at negotiating under the tariff threat”.
Quite right too, says the FT’s Wolfgang Munchau. Any concession from Brussels, such as a voluntary export restraint, could be “dangerous”. Not only would it mean losing face, a deal might unravel swiftly given Trump’s unpredictability. Some form of retaliation is inevitable if Trump does impose tariffs, but the EU’s “best longer-term bet is to continue the slow process of exporting its influence through trade diplomacy, involving the US where possible and going round it where not”.
It may be too late for that, says Hans Von Der Burchard in Politico. Cracks in the “proclaimed unity of the EU” are starting to show. Brussels has already indicated it is “ready to work” with Trump and crack down on China’s overproduction of subsidised steel; Germany’s “all-powerful motor industry is terrified of a trade war” and minded to “strike a bargain”. Some in Berlin even hope the dispute could spark trade talks along the lines of the “doomed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”, says Handelsblatt – although this would be a “tall order” since it would require a mandate from the EU’s 28 member states.