BRUSSELS – Top European Union officials criticized the United States steel and aluminum tariffs on Friday for damaging the global economy and failing to address Chinese overcapacity, threatening retaliation while holding out hope that the bloc can secure exemptions from US President Donald Trump, according to a report from Dow Jones.
The efforts to moderate the EU’s response – which includes a World Trade Organization challenge and $3.5 billion of levies on iconic, politically sensitive American products – comes ahead of a meeting in Brussels on Saturday between European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japan’s trade chief, Hiroshige Seko.
“We will continue to prepare our countermeasures technically, we hope we don’t need to use them, we don’t launch them today,” said Jyrki Katainen, a vice president at the European Commission, the EU’s executive. “We are waiting for tomorrow’s meeting, we hope to get clarity.”
Both Katainen and Malmström reiterated their call for the US to exempt the EU from the tariffs, citing a longstanding trans-Atlantic partnership embedded not only in trade but in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, where almost all EU members are also Washington’s allies, according to the Dow Jones report supplied to EFE.
EU officials have questioned Trump’s national security reasoning for the tariffs since the president ordered an investigation into the matter last year. The global import levies – 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum – cannot be justified under WTO rules, officials in Brussels said. European industries also operate based on market dynamics, not on state-backed subsidies like Chinese producers, Katainen said.
“We have claimed all the time that Europe is certainly not a threat to American internal security, so we expect to be excluded,” Malmström said.
So far, Trump has excluded only Canada and Mexico, while indicating that Australia would be exempted too.
He has threatened duties against German cars if the EU imposes countermeasures.
The US and EU both successfully countered Chinese dumping of steel and aluminum under WTO rules, Katainen said.
He urged Trump to avoid unilateral actions and to work through multilateral efforts such as the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity to curb China’s market-distorting policies, Dow Jones added in a report supplied to EFE.
Katainen said the EU shares some of the US’s complaints about the global-trade watchdog, calling on Washington to work with Brussels to update WTO rules to better manage challenges posed by China.
“Market economy is not a trade insecurity,” Katainen said.
EU officials said they hoped to press their case during talks with Lighthizer on Saturday. If efforts fail, the EU will be ready to strike back at the US within 90 days, Malmström said.
“We hope this discussion with US authorities will mean that we don’t have to use our countermeasures,” Katainen said. “Our preference is, of course, to avoid this situation.”