The EU has been trying to secure an exemption on the new US trade tariffs which have recently been announced by president Donald Trump. The new tariffs, which include a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminium, are due to come into force in two weeks time. If the EU is unable to secure an exemption, there are fears that it could lead for a “tit for tat” trade war between the two close allies. For example, the EU has already threatened to introduce 28 billion euros worth of retaliatory tariffs on products from the US like steel, agricultural products, peanut butter and orange juice.
Other key US trade partners and businesses have also voiced their concerns, warning that the tariffs could end up backfiring and starting a trade war with allies of the US, including the EU and Japan. Following a meeting in Brussels over the proposed tariffs, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said that there’s been “no immediate clarity on the exact US procedure for exemption.” She added that “Europe is certainly not a threat to American internal security, so we expect to be excluded,” insisting that “nobody has an interest of escalating this situation. We want to get as much clarity as possible.” and that the EU is “an ally, not a threat” to the US.
She argues that since EU companies are not state subsidised or in overcapacity, they can’t be considered a source of “unfair trade” with the US. “We agree on the problems, not on the remedy,” said an EU official, adding that “a prescription for the wrong illness”. European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen also commented on the potential need for the EU to impose its own tariffs on US products as a counter measure. “We are hoping we are not forced to use them,” he said, but noted that “if the worst case scenario happens, we are ready to take the US to the WTO [World Trade Organization] court.”
Maxime Bureau, chairman for Europe of AmCham, the US chamber of commerce said: “Unilateral actions which could be followed by counter-measures help no one.” The EU continues to insist that it’s committed to having ongoing, open, global trade, and that the tariffs are not needed to protect US security, especially when you consider that the majority of EU countries are members of NATO.
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