Ambassador Gordon Sondland

(Clockwise from bottom) Charlie Weber, LAWAC Board member, Alexander Messmann, LAWAC Executive Vice President, and Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the EU.

US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, reassured Board and International Circle members that the US and the EU are not on the precipice of a divorce.

At a Council Roundtable Luncheon on March 29th, Ambassador Sondland recognized that the “can was kicked down the road by the past three to four administrations”, with regards to the EU relationship. He added that while Democrats “may not agree with the president on where the sun rises or sets, when it comes to the EU they agree this is a nonpartisan issue.” The friction in trade has compounded over the past the past 20 years. He explained that there has been a slow and steady increase of non-tariff barriers - these are rules and regulations created to prevent the US from free and open competition in the EU market. The president’s concern about imbalance prompted the Secretary of Commerce to start dialogues with the EU.

To attract EU attention, “the president imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. The next encouragement was the threat of tariffs on German cars.” Those efforts led to a meeting at the White House with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, on July 25, 2018. The purpose of the meeting was to “get everyone to a place where there are no tariffs or subsidies in either direction- especially ones that are created with the sole purpose of keeping a competitor out of the market.”

To give the audience a better understanding of the impact of these trade talks, Ambassador Sondland enumerated the size of the US-EU relationship. The US and the EU have a $40 trillion combined GDP. Trade between both entities generates $1.1 trillion per year and supports 15 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ambassador Sondland also shared areas of “terrific cooperation on counterterrorism and standing together behind Russian sanctions.” He reassured the audience of the unshakeable relationship between the EU and the US which is grounded in mutuality since the Marshall plan but acknowledged that the US must address trade and that this “president will not kick the can down the road.”

As we learned that Theresa May lost the vote for a third time, Ambassador Sondland confirmed there “is no insider information on Brexit” and shared that just before lunch he had been on the phone with Sir Timothy Barrow, Theresa May’s right hand and the current Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union. Ambassador Sondland concluded by sharing his concerns about Venezuela. He exhorted the EU to support Guaidó and condemn Maduro. The EU needs consensus in creating its foreign policy.