Commentator: tariffs and threat of trade war likely todominate Czech-US talks in Washington

Daniel Anýž, photo: Prokop Havel / Czech Radio

The planned meeting between President Donald Trump and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in March made headline news in the Czech Republic, sparking a great deal of media comment. Radio Prague asked former Washington-based journalist Daniel Anýž for his take on the planned meeting.

Daniel Anýž | Photo: Prokop Havel,  Czech Radio

“I think it [the invitation] proves that there is a real agenda to cover, mainly the security warning issued by the Czech authorities concerning the Chinese company Huawei. The US authorities have issued a similar warning and on this issue we have a similar position as the US, unlike Austria, Great Britain or Germany. I think that this particular issue was one of the main factors that speeded up preparations for this visit.”

What about Westinghouse’s interest in the expansion of the Temelin nuclear power plant –that is also being cited by the Czech media as a topic likely to be high on the agenda…

“Energy will surely be on the agenda as well, though things are a bit different than in 2012 when Hillary Clinton was here on one of her last trips as state secretary. At the time the Temelin issue was really hot and the government was about to announce the winner of the tender for the plant’s expansion, but the situation changed and now the government is still trying to decide on Temelin’s future expansion. But clearly, it is emerging as a topic once again and we will see if the second round will be more successful than the first, six or seven years ago.”

Are there any issues that the Czech Republic will want to put on the table during these talks?

“Definitely, it will be the trade agenda. Because if –as will be the case – President Trump introduces a tariff on European cars it would hit the Czech industry hard – through the German car company Volkswagen. The Czech foreign minister, Tomáš Petříček, is currently in Washington for talks with his US counterpart, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, and I know that he was provided with a detailed analysis from the Czech Trade and Industry Ministry what the impact of such a step would be on the Czech industry and on the whole economy. So this is a big issue for us and I hope that both Mr. Petříček and later Prime Minister Babiš will put up a tough fight in presenting it.”