Meeting with the US ambassador

Thursday,
6
February
2020

02:29

The foreign and defense ministers meet with the US ambassador and evade the question of Venezuela. The reversal of tariffs against the agricultural sector, priority of the Executive.


US President Donald Trump (left) and Spanish President Pedro Snchez greet each other in the presence of Minister Margarita Robles at a NATO meeting in 2018.
EFE

The new coalition government tries to approach the Donald Trump Administration in the face of the spiral of recent months of commercial sanctions and demands for increased military spending. Moncloa sees it necessary to improve relations and this Wednesday there was a starting gun.

Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzlez Laya and Defense Minister Margarita Robles held an unusual joint meeting with the US ambassador to Spain on Wednesday and Trump’s personal friend,Duke Buchan, in what is the beginning of this new attempt withWashingtonjust three weeks after the inauguration of the new Executive.

Diplomatic sources confirmed that this first meeting with Buchan will have an immediate follow-up next Friday with the US Secretary of State,Mike Pompeo. Being a concerted telephone conversation days ago by Gonzlez Laya that, as I stated in EL MUNDO on January 11, his vocation is to reach agreements: “I’ve been working on building consensus for 25 years.”

The Foreign Ministry did not give details of the meeting beyond that “the minister wanted to have a first contact to review the bilateral relations and maintain the best possible relations”, but stressed that “they have not addressed the question of Venezuela” or nor about a recent American alert about sexual assaults in Spain.

The fact that Robles went to the Viana Palace, headquarters of Gonzlez Laya, to see the ambassador denotes the interest of Moncloa for working on agreements on two fronts: tariffs and defense. The first is of special interest to Spain, as stressed by the President of the Government, Pedro Snchez, inBrussels, due to the impact of the tariffs imposed by Trump on the Spanish agricultural sector.

Increase military spending

It is up to the European Union to reach trade agreements with the US, but the Spanish Government wants to contribute with bilateral approaches, as other European Executives are doing, such as the French.

And the second front, that of the Defense, is important for the White House and the Pentagon because of its request that Spain increase military spending and provide more facilities at the bases in Spain. This interest gives Snchez a negotiating asset to improve economic and commercial relations.

The Government continues to consider the reprisals of the US against Spain “disproportionate” for the stubborn illegal subsidies toAirbus. They were announced last October, with the imposition of 25% tariffs on Spanish strategic products such as olive oil and citrus, and the horizon may worsen with an expansion of the list or the entry barrier.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Spain defends the proportion of the measures and ensures that the representative of Commerce of his country took into account, when preparing the list, “products that could encourage the EU to finally abandon its subsidies to Airbus incompatible with the WTO “. And he adds: “When the subsidies to Airbus cease, tariffs will cease to apply.”

Gonzlez Laya, with extensive experience in international trade, has among its priorities cushion or reverse the tariffs imposed by Trump to Spain for subsidies to Airbus. And Robles is an advocate of increasing military spending and responsible in the Government for a precious asset in Spain for the US: the bases ofBroken(Cdiz) YMorn de la Frontera(Seville).

“We do not comment,” says the Embassy

The meeting with the ambassador took place at the request of the ministers, according to the official version of the ministry not denied by the US Embassy in Spain, which declines to comment on Buchan’s visit to the Viana Palace. “We don’t comment on our ambassador’s agenda or diplomatic talks,” said a spokesman.

The previous head of the Department, Josep Borrell, already tried to take care of relations with the US and was received in Washington byPompeoand by the then Trump National Security advisor,John Bolton.

The version of the ministry is striking that the ambassador did not raise the Venezuelan issue after Washington’s bitter comments on the unusual contact of the Minister of Transportation, Jos Luis Balos, with the Vice President of Venezuela last month,Delcy Rodrguez.

Jon Piechowski, Undersecretary of State in the US, said last day that he has “quite a few questions” about the conversation of balls and the right hand of Nicols Maduro.

“The United States has questions about this meeting with a Spanish minister and Delcy Rodrguez, because she is an officer of the former Maduro regime sanctioned not only by the US, but by the European Union,” the US official said during a press conference. “Holding this type of meeting with someone like Delcy Rodrguez is disappointing and could be daunting.”

Gonzlez Laya in Brussels

At the moment, Gonzlez Laya moved this Wednesday toBrusselsto hold various meetings as new head of the Spanish diplomacy both in theAtlantic Allianceas in the European Commission. Among them, with the NATO secretary general,Jens Stoltenberg.

Spain has pledged to invest 1.53% of its GDP in defense in 2024, that is, a little more than 18,000 million euros, but far from 2% that NATO passes – Spain included – were set as a goal at the 2014 Wales Summit.

Currently, it dedicates 0.92% of GDP, without taking into account the qualitative effort of the Spanish participation in international peace operations.

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