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European Union Ripostes as Donald Trump Kicks Off Transatlantic Trade War

Europe exports around five billion euros ($4 billion) worth of steel and a billion euros worth of aluminium to the United States each year, and the commission estimates Trump's tariffs will affect some 2.8 billion euros in business.

PTI

Updated:May 31, 2018, 11:33 PM IST
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European Union Ripostes as Donald Trump Kicks Off Transatlantic Trade War
File photo of US President Donald Trump. (Photo: Reuters)
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Brussels: The European Union will retaliate swiftly to the United States' decision to impose harsh tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker announced on Thursday, saying it was a "bad day" for trade.

The 28-nation bloc "will announce in the next coming hours counter-balancing measures," Juncker told a conference in Brussels after Washington said new tariffs would be effective from 0400 GMT Friday.

"This is a bad day for the world trade," Juncker said. "The European Union cannot react to that without any kind of reaction." In anticipation of the Trump decision, the EU already drew up a long list of counter-measures against the US, which would include equivalent duties on a whole range of products including cranberries, motorcycles and bourbon whiskey.

Europe exports around five billion euros ($4 billion) worth of steel and a billion euros worth of aluminium to the United States each year, and the commission estimates Trump's tariffs will affect some 2.8 billion euros in business.

As a precautionary measure, the European Commission, which handles trade matters for the EU, notified the World Trade Organization of eventual counter duties on May 18 that could come into force 30 days later.

The commission is now detailing those measures, but the final decision to greenlight the counter-measures falls to the EU's 28 member states.

In France Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, junior minister of foreign affairs, said "France disapproves of these unjustified and unjustifiable measures." German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas pledged: "Our answer to 'America First' can only be 'Europe united'".

Juncker said that the EU would also launch a dispute settlement procedure against the United States at the WTO, a legal process that could take years.

Juncker's trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the EU had tried "everything to avoid this outcome" in talks with President Donald Trump's administration over the last two months.

"I have argued for the EU and the US to engage in a positive transatlantic trade agenda, and for the EU to be fully, permanently and unconditionally exempted from these tariffs," the Swedish commissioner said.

"This is also what EU leaders have asked for," she added.

Malmstrom said the US side tried to use the threat of sanctions as "leverage to obtain concessions" from the EU but added "this is not the way we do business," especially between longstanding allies.

"Now that we have clarity, the EU's response will be proportionate and in accordance with WTO rules," she added.

In Washington, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the Trump administration was following through on its threat to impose metal tariffs on not just the EU, but also Canada and Mexico.

Ross said talks with the EU had failed to reach a satisfactory agreement to convince Washington to continue the exemption from the tariffs imposed in March.

The US has also begun a process that targets car imports, in a move that could poison relations even further with Europe.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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