EU opens WTO case against Trump steel and aluminium tariffs

The European Union is pressing ahead with countermeasures in response to Donald Trump’s decision to impose trade tariffs on steel and aluminium.

The EU is opening a case at the World Trade Organisation, after the US imposition of a 25% duty on European steel and a 10% duty on European aluminium came into force this morning. Cecilia Malmström, the EU trade commissioner, is also expected to announce retaliatory tariffs on classic American products, such as Levi’s jeans, bourbon whiskey, cranberries and peanut butter, at a press conference later on Friday.

“The European Union will today proceed with the WTO dispute settlement case adding those additional duties on a number of imports from the United States,” Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative on foreign policy, told journalists this morning. “The European Union measures will be reasonable, proportionate and in full compliance with WTO rules and obligations.”

She was the latest European politician to hit back at the US decision, which has was described by President Emmanuel Macron of France as a “mistake” and the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, as “patently absurd”.

Speaking on Friday morning, Germany’s economy minister Peter Altmaier said he hoped that a decisive response from the EU would prompt the US president to think again. “We hope that the European response will result in a process of reflection in the USA,” Altmaier told German broadcaster ARD, adding that the EU may look to work with Mexico and Canada on trade, also hit by the new tariffs.

Bernd Lange, the German socialist MEP who chairs the European parliament’s international trade committee, said the tariffs were “illegal” and insisted the EU would “make some countermeasures, no doubt about”. He said: “We chose also some symbolic products like Harley-Davidson to make clear here is a red card.”

Seeking to dial down the rhetoric, Mogherini said “The European Union is not at war with anyone. We don’t want to be, for us this out of the question … The European Union is a peace project including on trade.” She added that the EU believed in “free and fair trade” and “that is why we are multiplying the trade agreements with our partners in the world”.

The EU recently announced the formal launch of trade talks with Australia and last year completed negotiations with Japan.

She was speaking alongside China’s foreign affairs minister Wang Yi, who said China and the EU were both committed to a rules-based, multilateral global system. The pair were also discussing Iran and North Korea ahead of an EU-China summit in Beijing next month.



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