Brussels Edition: Triggering Trade Talks

(Bloomberg) -- Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg’s daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union.

EU governments may signal how soon talks can start on a trans-Atlantic trade deal when the bloc’s commerce ministers meet today in Bucharest. European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom sounded upbeat yesterday about the prospect of an accord as she seeks the green light to negotiate cuts in industrial tariffs, with the U.S. threat of much-dreaded car duties giving the bloc a political reason to move quickly.

What’s Happening

Brexit Race | With exactly five weeks until Britain is due to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May is racing to find a way out of the Brexit impasse. After a meeting between the two sides’ negotiators in Brussels failed to yield a breakthrough, further talks are expected to be held next week, with the EU ultimately expecting May to request a three-month delay, we’re told.

Cyber Evidence | Senior EU diplomats are gathering today to discuss cyber issues, which may include the evidence recently provided by the U.K. of cyber-attacks conducted by a Chinese state-linked hacker group. EU countries are considering a joint response after the U.S. indicted two members of that hacker group in December.

Week Ahead | Next week kicks off with the telecoms industry’s annual flagship event in Barcelona, the Mobile World Congress, amid growing divergence between the U.S. and Europe over whether Chinese equipment maker Huawei poses a security threat. A delegation of U.S. officials will also attend as Washington ramps up pressure on Europe to shun Huawei from its next-generation network.

In Case You Missed It

ECB Decisions | European Central Bank officials are setting up their meeting in two weeks as a key session to decide if the euro-area slowdown is bad enough to warrant action. Policy makers have demanded that analysis on long-term loans for banks is done quickly, though they haven’t fully committed to implementing a new round of funding. 

Danske Fallout | Danske Bank is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, adding to the long list of probes into its money-laundering scandal. The scandal continues to spread, with Swedbank becoming the latest Nordic lender to be targeted by allegations of money laundering.

Serial Greed | As investigations pile up, Scandinavians are taking a hard look at their institutions as allegations of systematic money laundering rock the entire region. The amounts involved are vast, and point to what may be the biggest dirty-money scandal ever. The region’s financial industry risks losing the trust of the people because of “serial greed.”

Polish Defiance | Polish lawmakers moved forward with a controversial bill to help foreign-currency mortgage holders despite objections from European banking executives and diplomats who say it violates EU rules. Meanwhile, European Council President Donald Tusk is calling on his countrymen to form a wide pro-European movement to oust the ruling nationalists in this year’s elections. 

Chart of the Day

Brussels Edition: Triggering Trade Talks

From economic indicators to profit warnings, there’s no shortage of evidence that the world is feeling the pain of a slump in trade. In Asia, South Korea and Japan reported declines in exports, while European powerhouse Germany is seeing manufacturing shrink the most in six years. 

Today’s Agenda

All times CET.

  • 4 p.m. Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau speaks at a conference hosted by the Bank of Portugal in Lisbon on “Challenges faced by the Eurosystem”
  • EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis attends the TechChill 2019 conference in Riga and delivers a keynote speech on “How the EU drives start-ups and innovation”
  • Informal meeting of EU trade ministers continues in Bucharest
  • European Central Bank President Mario Draghi speaks at a ceremony in Bologna where Universita degli studi di Bologna award him Laurea honoris causa

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