Meet the Irishman the EU Just Picked to Battle Trump

Meet the Irishman the EU Just Picked to Battle Trump

(Bloomberg) --

The European Union’s top trade job is going to an Irish political bruiser with the stature to match his reputation.

Meet the Irishman the EU Just Picked to Battle Trump

Phil Hogan is slated to succeed Cecilia Malmstrom as EU trade chief when the next European Commission takes office in November. Incoming commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the assignment — along with the rest of her team appointments — on Tuesday in Brussels.

Hogan’s current job as European farm commissioner complements his new one. Agriculture is a key part of free-trade agreements the EU has reached with Canada, Japan and the South American group of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay over the past five years and of similar pacts the bloc is pursuing with Australia and New Zealand.

Standing nearly 6 feet 5 inches tall, “Big Phil” looks set to inherit four transatlantic challenges from Malmstrom of Sweden:

  • President Donald Trump’s threat to impose much-dreaded tariffs on European cars and auto parts based on national-security grounds
  • Demands by Washington to include agriculture in a planned tariff-elimination deal that the EU insists be limited to industrial goods
  • A U.S. plan expected within weeks to hit a range of EU goods with duties as retaliation against European aid for planemaker Airbus
  • Trump’s challenges on several fronts to the global commercial order underpinned by the World Trade Organization

Hogan, 59, has been a trenchant critic of Downing Street’s approach to Brexit thus far. Because he would run any EU talks with post-Brexit Britain on a free-trade accord, his appointment sends two contrasting political signals to the U.K.

First, because British politics has been thrown into turmoil by EU insistence on a guarantee that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains free of controls after the U.K. withdrawal, Hogan’s new portfolio shows European political solidarity with Dublin over Brexit.

Second, Ireland is as keen as any EU country to maintain close trading ties with the U.K. That sends London a goodwill gesture meant to facilitate an orderly withdrawal.

The appointment of Hogan as EU trade chief marks the first time in 20 years that the job is being put back in the hands (other than on a caretaker basis) of someone from Europe’s biggest political family, the Christian Democrats. Malmstrom is a Liberal like her Belgian predecessor Karel De Gucht, while Socialists from the U.K. and France held the job before that.

Charting the Trade War

Meet the Irishman the EU Just Picked to Battle Trump

After two boom years, the picture has changed for America’s factories. Battered by rising uncertainty and the damper it has put on capital expenditures, slowing export markets, a stronger dollar, and higher input costs due to tariffs, U.S. manufacturers are making less than they did a year ago.

Today’s Must Reads

  • Surging uncertainty | Concern about global trade have reached nearly 10 times the peaks in previous decades and may dent world economic growth, according to new IMF data.
  • Singapore’s hope | GDP will probably grow this quarter after shrinking the previous three months, allowing the city-state to avoid meeting the technical definition of a recession.
  • Point of no return | Trade tensions could derail a landmark agreement encompassing 16 countries including India, China and Australia if a deal isn’t struck before November.
  • Trading insults | The USDA’s top trade official called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “communist zealot,” as China’s state-run newspaper singled out a White House adviser for “lies.” 
  • Animal kingdom | China’s ambassador to South Africa took out a half-page advertisement in a key local newspaper to attack the U.S.’s “law of the jungle” approach to global trade.

Economic Analysis

  • Chinese exports | Front-loading of demand will give way to a deeper slump in exports.
  • U.S.-India talks | Trade negotiations between the two countries expected later this month could result in a limited trade deal or the same type of aggressive approach the Trump administration has taken with China.

Coming Up

  • Sept. 12-15: India trade balance
  • Sept. 18: Japan, Italy trade balance

--With assistance from Bryce Baschuk, Dara Doyle, Nikos Chrysoloras and Richard Bravo.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Murray at, Zoe Schneeweiss

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.