EU ‘should be excluded’ from US tariffs: top European trade official

Brussels: The EU “should be excluded” from new US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, the bloc’s top trade official insisted today, saying Brussels would seek urgent clarification from Washington. Brussels has already drawn up a hit list of flagship American products to target for countermeasures if its exports are affected by the tariffs signed off by US President Donald Trump today,Trump imposed the tariffs — 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium — despite repeated warnings from the EU and other allies that this could trigger a full-on trade war.

“The EU is a close ally of the US and we continue to be of the view that the EU should be excluded from these measures,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem wrote on Twitter. “I will seek more clarity on this issue in the days to come,” she said, adding that she would meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Brussels for talks on Saturday. Announcing the tariffs, Trump said Canada and Mexico would be excluded and other countries could negotiate exemptions, but he singled out Germany for criticism.

The British government said the problem of global over-capacity in steel needed all sides to work together, insisting “tariffs are not the right way” to tackle the issue. “We will work with EU partners to consider the scope for exemptions outlined today and continue to work with all the sectors involved in this decision to robustly support our industries,” the government said a statement.

The EU has threatened retaliatory tariffs on a wide range of US imports items; from steel to peanut butter, bourbon and denim jeans — most of which are produced in states that Trump needs to win reelection. Europe exports around five billion euros’ (USD 4 billion) worth of steel and a billion euros’ worth of aluminium to the US each year, and the commission estimates Trump’s tariffs could cost some 2.8 billion euros.

The EU is also looking at “safeguard” measures to protect its industry — restricting the bloc’s imports of steel and aluminium to stop foreign supplies flooding the European market, which is allowed under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. EU President Donald Tusk yesterday warned Trump that “trade wars are bad and easy to lose”, directly rebuffing the US leader’s claim last week they were “good and easy to win”.