EU Trade Chief Cites Nietzsche in Warning Against Echoing Trump

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union is using German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche to explain its strategy on how to deal with global trade tensions created by U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach to international relations.

“When others raise barriers and become protectionist, it’s tempting to adopt similar tactics,” EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom told conference attendees at Humboldt University of Berlin on Monday. She then recited a quote from Nietzsche’s seminal work Beyond Good and Evil: “He who fights with monsters best take care lest they become monsters.”

Malmstrom is navigating a fraught global environment in which Trump has hit the 28-nation bloc with tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and has threatened levies on the sale of its cars and auto parts in the U.S. The EU retaliated against the metals duties and is compiling a list of possible targets in the event the U.S. follows through on the auto threats, which would be a significant escalation of the dispute.

Malmstrom, who described relations with the U.S. as “a bit tense,” said the EU is focusing on areas of regulatory cooperation with Washington, rather than pursuing a trade accord, which would take much longer to negotiate and would require all 28 members of the bloc to give the trade commissioner a mandate to begin talks.

Trump has taken an antagonistic view of the EU, which he says is unfair and a foe of the U.S. In an interview over the weekend, he said, “The EU was formed in order to take advantage of us on trade and that’s what they’ve done.”

When asked to respond to the U.S. president’s comments, Malmstrom took a more historical approach: “The EU wasn’t created to take advantage of the U.S., it was created to find a different way to solve conflicts than in the trenches and that’s been very successful and the European integration project has always been supported by the U.S.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.