Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) admitted that Estonia is keeping a concerned eye on the intensified trade dispute between the EU and the U.S., but added that he is confident that Estonia and the U.S.' strategic relationship in the security field will not suffer as a result.
"From Estonia's perspective, this is an undesirable and unfortunate development," Mikser said. "I would like to hope that this won't affect transatlantic communication in other complex and strategic areas. We are following these developments closely and worriedly. In terms of security, the U.S. has been, is and will remain our most important, close and militarily strongest bilateral ally. But our security relationship will survive these economic disputes."
The minister also confirmed that the immediate economic impact of the U.S.' steel and aluminium tariffs on Estonia will be very small.
"The particular commodity or raw material groups upon which the U.S. imposed tariff rates — the export of these goods from Estonia to the U.S. accounts for a paltry portion of both Estonian export volumes as well as exports to the U.S.," Mikser explained. "And the American goods upon which the EU is planning countermeasures account for a negligible portion of Estonian imports and are substitutable."
Tense relations between the EU, US
According to Mikser, the EU and U.S. have seen the introduction of reciprocal tariffs in recent memory.
"In the early 2000s, it was pretty much the same when the George W. Bush Administration introduced tariffs, after which both sides quickly understood that a trade war between the U.S. and the EU wasn't in either side's interests," he recalled. "Many of America's own economic politicians today likewise find that imposing restrictions on the import of steel and aluminium will have a greater negative impact on American industrial producers than any expected gains."
The foreign minister noted that relations between the EU and the U.S. have been tense in a number of other areas as well recently.
"There is more than one topic on which [the two] have substantially different positions," Mikser acknowledged. "Trade is important and has major economic impact. Climate policy as well. On the subject of security policy, the most recent difference of opinion is regarding the future of the Iran nuclear deal. The EU is critical of recent U.S. steps in the Middle East as well, first and foremost of the U.S. relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There are a number of such topics, but in terms of security as well as other topics, the strategic relationship with the U.S. is the most important. And I believe that the same is true in reverse."
Ansip: There are no winners in this fight
European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip (Reform/ALDE) said that there cannot be any winners in a trade war between the EU and the U.S., only losers.
"Since the U.S. decided to introduce protective tariffs on EU steel, the EU will certainly respond to this," said Ansip. "But this is not a good message to the entire world. There cannot be any winners in this conflict; there can only be losers."
Ansip added that the EU has already concluded agreements and are prepared to introduce countermeasures.
The U.S. on Friday introduced sanctions on steel and aluminium from the EU, Canada and Mexico. The European Commission promised to launch the process of counter-tariffs on the U.S. immediately.
Editor: Aili Vahtla