5 challenges for the EU’s new trade chief

Spare a thought for Phil Hogan’s successor as EU trade boss.

With global trade sputtering because of coronavirus, Brexit talks turning into a game of chicken, and the trade conflict with the United States in desperate need of a cease-fire, the new commissioner will have their work cut out. While prior commissioners were able to focus on securing headline-grabbing trade deals, attention is now turning toward damage control.

Here are the five main tasks for the EU’s new trade chief:

End trade war with the US

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen counted on Hogan, who proved a highly effective negotiator in his previous stint as agriculture commissioner, to reset the world’s largest investment and trade relationship after years of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff war. Disputes over French plans for a digital services tax that would hit American tech giants and European support for Boeing’s chief rival, Airbus, gave Trump the ammunition he needed to roll out new duties.

Last week, Washington and Brussels agreed on a mini-deal of reciprocal tariff cuts. But Brussels hopes to put the longstanding dispute over the aircraft subsidies to bed for good when the World Trade Organization is set to determine the size of EU retaliation Brussels will be entitled to impose on U.S. products. The EU is keen to resolve its fight on the Western front so that it can turn it’s attention eastwards and deal with China’s state-led economy.

Prevent EU deals from unraveling

The coronavirus has exposed an old fault line between the EU’s more protectionist southern countries and more liberal northerners. Protectionism was already on the rise before the pandemic,

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