(Reuters) - A new European Union military pact risks shutting American companies out of defense contracts and undermining NATO، the United States has told the bloc، hinting at possible retaliation.
In a May 1 letter، the U.S. government said limitations on the involvement of non-EU countries under consideration in the European pact amounted to “poison pills”.
“It is clear that similar reciprocally imposed U.S. restrictions would not be welcomed by our European partners and allies، and we would not relish having to consider them in the future،” said the letter from two U.S. Department of Defense undersecretaries، Ellen Lord and Andrea Thompson، to the EU’s foreign affairs chief، Federica Mogherini.
Any rules limiting U.S. defense contractors’ participation would also amount to “a dramatic reversal of the last three decades of increased integration of the transatlantic defense sector،” said the letter، seen by Reuters.
Mogherini said the American concerns over the EU accord - agreed in December 2017 and aiming to fund، develop and deploy armed forces together - were unfounded.
“The European Union is and remains open to U.S. companies and equipment،” she told reporters on Tuesday، adding the European procurement market is more open than that of the United States، which is already dominant in the global weapons trade.
EU defense ministers، who discussed the rules governing the pact on Tuesday، are trying to agree legislation by June on how to allow the involvement of non-EU countries، including Britain after it leaves the bloc and the United States.
Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld said the Netherlands wanted U.S. involvement and had proposed an “emergency brake” mechanism for EU governments to trigger if they felt unease about the participation of non-EU states in a defense project.
President Donald Trump’s administration told EU governments in February last year the United States should play a central role in the European pact.
However Trump’s “America First” policy، problems for European firms breaking into the U.S. weapons market and years of overlapping defense spending by individual EU members have spurred European efforts to better integrate its armed forces.
The U.S. letter، which says Brussels should not harm damaging burgeoning EU-NATO ties، was the most vocal U.S. opposition to the EU military pact.