EU ready to retaliate, warns Trump of ‘stupid’ trade war

The Associated Press

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem speaks during a press conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.

The Associated PressBRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union says it’s ready to retaliate against the United States over President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum — with countermeasures against iconic U.S. products like Harley Davidson motorcycles, Levi’s jeans and bourbon.

The EU threat and Trump’s insistence that the tariffs will go ahead escalate the risk of a trade war, in which countries try to punish each other by increasing taxes on traded goods. In the end, that tends to hurt all sides as exporting producers suffer but so do consumers who face higher costs, experts say.

There was some hope that free trade proponents in the White House, like economic adviser Gary Cohn, would dissuade Trump from going ahead with the tariffs. But Cohn’s resignation Tuesday dealt a blow to that expectation.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said Wednesday that the EU is circulating among member states a list of U.S. goods to target with tariffs so that it can respond as quickly as possible.

The list so far includes U.S. steel and agricultural products, as well as other products like bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries and orange juice.

She did not say what level of tariffs the EU would set, leaving it unclear what the economic impact would be.

“This is basically a stupid process, the fact that we have to do this. But we have to do it,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had said Friday. “We can also do stupid.”

The EU considers itself to be caught in the crossfire of this particular trade dispute, in which Trump has mainly singled out China for being unfair in its commercial deals.

Trump last week said his government would levy penalties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports, but did not say whether traditional allies like the EU and Canada would be exempt. On Wednesday, Cabinet members suggested Canada and Mexico might escape and that the announcement was due at the end of this week.

Once Trump officially announces the tariffs, they would start almost immediately, experts say.

So the EU has moved ahead with preparations for the worst.

Malmstroem said that the EU, the world’s biggest trading bloc, rejects Trump’s reasoning that the tariffs are backed by the international legal right to protect national security.

“We cannot see how the European Union, friends and allies in NATO, can be a threat to international security in the U.S.,” Malmstroem told reporters. “From what we understand, the motivation of the U.S. is an economic safeguard measure in disguise, not a national security measure.”

The EU itself already has tariffs on many imports. But Malmstroem said Trump’s motives in this case do not appear compatible with World Trade Organization rules and that this means the EU can activate safeguards to protect its own markets.

The WTO said Wednesday that, so far, 18 members — including China, Australia, Brazil, the EU, India, Japan, Norway and Russia — have expressed concerns about Trump’s proposed tariffs.

At the origin of the problem is overproduction by China, which has flooded world markets with steel and aluminum, driving prices down and intensifying pressure on producers in the United States and Europe.

Nearly half the steel produced globally in December, for example, came from Chinese mills, according to the World Steel Association.Speech

Click to play


+ -

Generating speech. Please wait...

Become a Premium Member to use this service.

Become a Premium Member to use this service.

Offline error: please try again.