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Even if US-China trade war goes on, Europe might be a winner

Key Points
  • Speaking to CNBC in Sintra, Portugal, the Austrian central bank governor noted that there could be some opportunities for Europe.
  • Both sides of the Atlantic have been at odds over trade ever since President Donald Trump took office back in 2016.
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European economy could benefit from US-China trade war, ECB's Nowotny says

There could be some upside for the euro area from the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, ECB Governing Council Member Ewald Nowotny told CNBC Tuesday.

Escalating trade war has been a concern for the European Central Bank (ECB), partly due to the export-driven nature of the euro area economy. However, speaking to CNBC in Sintra, Portugal, the Austrian central bank governor noted that there could be some opportunities for Europe.

"The euro zone is affected like everybody else but again in a trade conflict (between) China and the U.S. there are a number of options for the euro zone. It might be on the losing side, frankly speaking in some cases it might be on the winning side. So, this depends very much on the specific perspectives," Nowotny told CNBC's Annette Weisbach.

"There might be cases of trade diversions," he pointed out. "If the U.S. is isolating itself increasingly from world trade that would mean there's a number of trade relationships, there might be more going…to the euro zone, we might have stronger cooperation also in technological ways between Europe and China.

Ewald Nowotny, governor of Austria's central bank and European Central Bank (ECB) governing council member, speaks during the "New Opportunities in the Sign of International Networking" event in Vienna, Austria.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Both sides of the Atlantic have been at odds over trade ever since President Donald Trump took office back in 2016. Since then, the president ended trade negotiations between the U.S. and the EU over a wide-ranging deal (the Transatlantic trade and investment partnership – TTIP), has imposed tariffs on European steel and aluminium products, as well as threatened to slap further duties on European carmakers.

Economists at Barclays said in a note that France and Germany could be the biggest beneficiaries in an escalation in trade tariffs between the U.S. and China. They believe that trade substitution resulting from additional tariffs, and other non-tariff related barriers, leads to opportunities for core euro area economies to gain export market share.

Trump announced last month that he would delay tariffs on cars and auto part imports for up to six months as discussions with the European Union and Japan take place and while he seeks to conclude talks with China. The president had threatened as early as last year that he would slap a 25% tariff on car imports from the European Union.

On Trump's approach to international trade and remarks that trade wars are easy to win, Nowotny said: "I think it's totally wrong, one has to be aware that trade wars are extremely risky."