Europe Talks Tough Over US Tariffs

- Jun 01, 2018-

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a conference to present a plan for the preservation of heritages sites at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, May 31, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

Abe plans reprisals against import levies, saying Japan 'can't accept this'

The European Union is bracing for new United States' tariffs against steel and aluminum as tension between the two trading superpowers ratchets up.

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned US President Donald Trump against going head-to-head with Europe, according to The Associated Press, while the BBC said Bruno Le Maire, France's finance minister, has complained the tariffs would be unjustified and dangerous.

"It's entirely up to US authorities whether they want to enter into a trade conflict with their biggest partner, Europe," Le Maire said after last-minute talks in Paris with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared to have failed.

Le Maire said the EU would respond with "all necessary measures".

The Guardian newspaper said Ross told his counterparts at the Paris meeting that Europe should not use the tariffs as "an excuse" to stop negotiating with the US over trade. The paper said he told counterparts that China was continuing to talk to the US about trade, despite being subject to tariffs.

"God knows, there are plenty of tariffs the EU has on us," he said. "So, it's not that you can't talk just because there are tariffs."

The commerce secretary is expected to be in Beijing on the weekend to take part in a second round of trade talks with China.

Gareth Stace, head of the British trade organization UK Steel, said on BBC Radio 4's Today program the new tariffs were "purely protectionist" and amounted to EU leaders having a "gun held to their head". He said the expected 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tax on aluminum, which could be in place by Friday morning, were against World Trade Organization rules.

Cecilia Malmstrom, Europe's trade commissioner, has said she doubts the EU will be able to avoid the US setting either new tariffs or import limits.

The Wall Street Journal said the EU, meanwhile, is planning to respond with new tariffs on US products, including motorcycles, bourbon and jeans.

The US announced plans to impose blanket tariffs on steel imports almost three months ago, citing national security reasons for the move. It then gave the EU a temporary exemption while it tried to persuade Europe's steel producers to cut production.

The EU is the world's second-largest steel producer, after China, and employs around 320,000 people. China has already been hit with US tariffs and has responded with tariffs of its own against US imports.

The US has also imposed tariffs on other trading partners, including Japan.

Bloomberg said Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, is planning to introduce tariffs against US imports.

"We can't accept this," Bloomberg quoted him as saying. "From a security perspective, it's very difficult to understand why this would be imposed on Japan, a military ally."

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