European Union to respond to USA tariffs within 90 days if not exempt

Donald Trump has stirred up international controversy with his steel tariffs

Donald Trump has stirred up international controversy with his steel tariffs

The US President on Thursday signed a proclamation that sets the tariff on imports of steel at 25% and on aluminum at 10%, to be effected in 15 days.

However, he exempted allies, Canada and Mexico from the measure, and said the allies having "security relationship" with the United States could propose exemptions, before the new tariffs come into force. The EU wants to find out exactly what mandate he has and precisely what conditions allow exemptions, but it is ruling out any negotiations for USA market access.

Other countries that present an alternative way to address the United States national-security threat of their exports may be exempt as well.

Brussels is also looking at "safeguard" measures to protect its industry - restricting the bloc's imports of steel and aluminum to stop foreign supplies flooding the European market, which is allowed under World Trade Organization rules.

Japan's steel industry body also expressed concern.

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These kinds of tit-for-tat retaliations raise the spectre of protectionism and endanger the global free trade system backed by the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Eggert then demanded European Union instate protective measures for the industry, adding: "We cannot stand by and watch the USA light a match under the global trading system".

"Given the circumstances, during the visit of US Ambassador Lighthizer to Brussels this Saturday, the EU will convey the message that we expect the EU to be fully excluded from the US measures without preconditions or negotiations", a European Commission source said ahead of the talks on condition of anonymity. Shares in European steelmakers fell, although Germany's two biggest producers Thyssenkrupp and Salzgitter have insisted the impact on them will be limited. But since Trump signaled that exemptions were possible, reaction has been measured, and counter threats have been carefully calibrated so far.

Some products under consideration are largely produced in constituencies controlled by Trump's Republican Party.

EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who coordinates policy for the world's biggest trading bloc, said she shared USA concerns about overcapacity in the steel sector but did not believe in tariffs as a way to solve the problem.

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The EU exports around five billion euros ($4 billion) worth of steel and a billion euros worth of aluminum to the United States each year, and the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, estimates Trump's tariffs could cost some 2.8 billion euros.

If the American tariffs are put in place, Malmström said, the European Union could take three steps: take the case to the WTO; add safeguards to protect the European Union against steel diverted from the United States or impose tariffs on a series of American-made goods.

Trump tweeted on Friday that he spoke with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about trade and military cooperation. The latest in a series of Trump's "America First" initiatives, the decision has met swift, strong backlash from major trading nations, including Washington's security allies. China accounts for only a small fraction of U.S. steel imports, but its rapid rise to produce half the world's steel has helped create a global glut that has driven down prices.

Beijing vowed to "firmly defend its legitimate rights and interests".

"I said, 'Good, open up the barriers and get rid of your tariffs, and if you don't do that, we're gonna tax Mercedes-Benz, we're gonna tax BMW'". We can not lose our steel industry.

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