Mark Thoma th other day links to a story in Der Spiegel about a visit to Japan by new German Foreign Minister, Heike Maas. He met with PM Shinzo Abe, and apparently the two of them agreed on the need for creating a network of like-minded nations that wish to maintain portions of the “post-war order,” especially in the areas of trade policy rules and climate change agreements. All of this is in reaction to actions by Donald Trump in both areas. While Maas is fairly new in his office, reportedly the planning for this started under his predecessor and in conjunction with discussions in Paris and Brussels. Supposedly the last straw was Trump’s performance at the NATO summit.
Supposedly non-EU nations that may be joining this erstwhile coalition include beyond Japan: South Korea, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Mexico, and Canada, with the foreign minister of the latter about to visit Berlin. I guess we shall have to see how this works out.
Of course, much of the US media that should know better is still oohing and ahhing over the sjupposedly great deal cut between Trump and Juncker, which happened apparently on the same day as this meeting between Maas and Abe. Today’s WSJ had a headline quoting Kudlow that US-EU negotiations on “agriculture” are about to start. Almost certainly, to the extent this is true at all, this will involve only to get more specific about Juncker’s promise that the EU will increase soybean imports from the US (see pgl’s recent post here on all that). It absolutely will not go beyond soybeans, even if somehow Trump thinks it will.
An earlier Der Spiegel article reported that Trump specifically requested of Juncker that the increase in ag imports go beyond soybeans, and Juncker firmly said no, soybeans only. Anybody fantasizing that some big and general US-EU ag negotiation is about to start is seriously ignorant. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU is both expensive and extremely politically and diplomatically complicated and controversial, having developed after many heated disputed among EU nations. No way is Trump going to be allowed to just barge into that mess, where he might get sprayed with manure by French farmers (they did that once to an earlier French leader they were unhappy with). The only reason soybeans are not such a big deal in the EU is that few countries grow them and they are just not that much used in European cuisines, for better or for worse.
Addendum: I have just checked on EU soybean production. No EU member is among the top 11 producers, and no EU member is among the 53 soybean oil producers. Really. Some other European nations are in on the latter, including Norway and Switzerland, and Russia is 11th in soybean production. My bet on which one is the largest soybean producer in the EU is probably Italy, which is among the top three in soybean yields, with Turkey tops in that category.