Tit-for-tat trade reprisals a concern for Varadkar


The Taoiseach is to raise concerns around a possible “spiral of tit for tats” in trade between the EU and the US when he meets president Donald Trump this week.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets Texas governor Greg Abbott at the governor's mansion, Austin.

Leo Varadkar also indicated that he will bring up LGBT rights with US vice president Mike Pence, who is known for his opposition to gay marriage and LGBT rights.

He said: “I intend to say for the vast majority of people around the world including gay lesbian transgender backgrounds, we have always seen America as the beacon of freedom.

“It is tough to see a country built on individual freedom not being a world leader in that space anymore. I hope once again America will take leadership in that area.”

In a wide-ranging interview at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, the Taoiseach said tariffs are “a road that I don’t want either Europe or America to go down”.

“As a policy, I can’t imagine how it would be good for anyone,” he said. “I don’t think it would be good for America, I don’t think it would be good for Ireland or the EU.”

It comes after Mr Trump announced a 25% import tariff on steel and 10% on aluminium which prompted fears of a trade war. The EU has threatened retaliatory tariffs on US goods, including bourbon and jeans.

Mr Varadkar said: “The day before I go to the White House, the European Commission will announce its response and what has been hinted at is tariffs on denim jeans and bourbon whiskey. When I hear bourbon whiskey, I think the next response might be tariffs against Irish whiskey, so what you get into is a spiral of tit for tats.”

Asked if he would question Mr Trump about it, Mr Varadkar said: “You have about 40 minutes and you have all the things that you want covered, afterwards you always get asked: ‘Did you raise this, did you mention that?’ You can’t cover everything but on the very top of that list, or very high on that list will be trade and the risk of a drift in relationships between Europe and America and that really really scares me.”

He said Mr Trump is “definitely not a career politician” when asked of his view on the current president.

Asked about British prime minister Theresa May by talk moderator Evan Smith, Mr Varadkar said: “If it wasn’t for Brexit it would be a great relationship.”

Mr Smith replied: “As we say, Mr Prime Minister, that’s like ‘other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the play?’. Other than Brexit everything is OK.”

The Taoiseach said there was no way Ireland could accept a hard border.

“It’s not something we can really compromise on having come this far,” he said, adding that if a hard border is created tensions could rise.

“Having reached a stage where we have peace and relative prosperity on our island, where we have, most of the time anyway, powersharing north of the border and where borders don’t really matter anymore, we can’t risk going backwards,” he said.


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