The European Union's trade chief said on Thursday that the bloc would check to see whether a major trade deal struck by the United States and China is compliant with global rules.
On Wednesday, Washington and Beijing scaled back their 18-month trade row that has hit global economic growth by signing an initial agreement under which China will boost purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over two years in exchange for the rolling back of some U.S. tariffs.
"The devil is in the detail," EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan told a conference in London, speaking by videolink from Washington where he is meeting U.S. officials this week. Hogan said the details were, so far, "a bit sketchy."
"They have stepped outside the usual framework for doing deals ... and they are dealing directly on a bilateral basis and we will have to assess whether it is WTO compliant."
Hogan said "structural reforms" in China that the EU and the United States wanted were not addressed in the agreement and the EU wanted to see what was on table in the second phase of negotiations between the United States and China.
Asked about a row between France and the United States over a digital tax which has seen Washington threaten to impose duties of up to 100% on imports of champagne, handbags and other French products worth $2.4 billion, Hogan said he thought eventually a way of implementing a global tax in relation to technology giants such as Amazon and Google would be found.
"At the end of the day I think everybody accepts, including the United States, that there will be a global tax to deal with technology companies - it is a question of how we define that and what criteria we end up with," he said, adding that it might take until 2021 or 2022 for talks to deepen.
On long-delayed reform of the World Trade Organization, Hogan said he expected the United States to move forward only in 2021 after the presidential election in November this year.
He also reiterated comments by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week who said it will be impossible for Britain to negotiate all aspects of its future relationship with the EU by the end of 2020, the deadline set by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and both sides would have to prioritize. (Reuters)