/Trump envoy takes aim at European Union’s next trade chief

Trump envoy takes aim at European Union’s next trade chief

United States Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland | Daniel Mihailescu/AFP via Getty Images

Hogan comments on Trump ‘very condescending,’ ambassador complains.

The United States has fired the first warning shots at the EU’s next trade commissioner before he’s even taken office.

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU, branded comments about Donald Trump from Commissioner Phil Hogan “unhelpful” and “very condescending.” Speaking to POLITICO’s EU Confidential podcast, Sondland warned of the dangers of “someone handling the EU trade portfolio whose sole approach is belligerence.”

Hogan, the current European agriculture commissioner who is slated to take over the trade portfolio on November 1, told Ireland’s RTE radio last week he would do everything he could “to get Mr. Trump to see the error of his ways” on trade. The veteran Irish politician said he hopes the U.S. president will “abandon some of the reckless behavior that we have seen from him in relation to his relationship with China and describing the European Union as a security risk.”

Sondland said that “saying that you’re going to teach President Trump how trade works … cannot be viewed as anything but a very condescending comment.”

Sondland said he expects any future EU trade commissioner to vigorously advocate on the bloc’s behalf but added: “I don’t think you want someone handling the EU trade portfolio whose sole approach is belligerence, because that just results in an impasse, a stalemate and then people start to do things that you don’t want them to do.”

Reminded that Trump’s own rhetoric is often forceful, Sondland drew a distinction between language used by political leaders and what he said was more appropriate for ministers and negotiators.

Sondland’s interview came just a day before major news broke on the trade transatlantic trade front — POLITICO reported that the World Trade Organization had ruled in favor of the U.S. and against the EU in a long-running dispute over subsidies to Airbus.

Asked for his reaction over the weekend, Sondland told POLITICO: “Ultimately, what the United States is seeking is an end to subsidies for Airbus and the recovery of damages. However, if negotiations between the U.S. and EU don’t elicit a change in this behavior and a recovery of those damages, then the United States will suspend concessions and resort to tariffs. The president will ultimately make this decision, and he is prepared to act quickly if necessary.”

In the interview, Sondland also expanded on his recently-expressed hopes for a “reset” in relations between the U.S. and Europe once the EU’s new leadership team is all in place.

He said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had made clear on a recent visit that Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, Council President-elect Charles Michel, foreign policy nominee Josep Borrell and European Parliament President David Sassoli would be invited to Washington early in their terms and that Trump intends to “actively participate in this reset.”

POLITICO’s EU Confidential is available on all major podcast apps, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

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