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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Bad-Cop' U.S. Benefits EU in China Trade Deal

BRUSSELS -- An 11th-hour trade agreement between the United States and China illustrates the "good-cop, bad-cop" relationship between Europe and Washington in securing international deals.


Trade analysts say that while Washington threatens and cajoles "suspects" into reform, the European Union adopts a softly-softly approach -- coaxing and encouraging transgressors to mend their ways.


Europe benefits regardless of which method works, they say.


Washington's agreement Monday with China followed an increasingly bitter war of words that at one point threatened to spiral out of control.


At stake was billions of dollars in bilateral trade as the United States threatened to slap 100 percent tariffs on Chinese imports, and Beijing threatened to retaliate.


All this was over China's perceived reluctance to clamp down seriously on intellectual copyright theft, particularly the pirating of compact discs and computer software.


Europe adopted a different tack. Earlier this year the EU offered to help train Chinese judges and lawyers so that Beijing could tackle the problem from the inside.


Encouragement rather than confrontation is the cornerstone of EU trade policy.


"They [Europe] get all the benefits without any of the aggravation," said one U.S. music-industry analyst, who did not wish to be identified. "They always look like the good guys."


U.S. anger at what it sees as having to go it alone has surfaced before. The former U.S. ambassador to the EU and now undersecretary of state for commerce, Stuart Eizenstat, last year accused Europe of not being prepared to "fight in the trenches" in trade wars.


EU officials say the 15-nation bloc is not deliberately seeking to capitalize on U.S. trade disputes. At the same time, however, it will not turn benefits down.


"It is quite wrong to suggest we are sitting here rubbing our hands in anticipation," a spokesman for EU Trade Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan said. "Our approaches are complementary."


The good-cop, bad-cop scenario is also being played out in relations with Cuba, with the EU at odds with Washington over U.S. legislation -- the so-called Helms-Burton Act -- that seeks to punish companies doing business with Havana. Some companies, notably Canadian and Mexican, have hinted theydwould disinvest from the United States rather than Cuba and would seek compensatory markets in Europe and elsewhere.


The Helms-Burton Act is seen as a precursor to similar legislation proposed for companies dealing with Iran, Iraq and Libya.


Again, Washington wants sanctions to drive those countries to the negotiating table. Europe wants to use trade as the incentive.


"Our aim, just as much as the Americans, is to get them into the international community," Brittan's spokesman said. "It is just that our methods are different."