The Government today branded Donald Trump’s decision to impose steep new steel tariffs ‘deeply disappointing’.
British steel sent to America will be slapped with a 25 per cent premium from tomorrow after the White House refused to extend a waiver to EU countries.
Last ditch talks between US and European officials in Paris failed today in moves that could trigger a trans-Atlantic trade war.
The EU immediately signalled it would launch retaliatory measures and lodge a protest at the World Trade Organisation.
They could hit back by slapping tariffs on US orange juice, peanut butter and other goods in return.
Britain – which is negotiating as part of the EU and not independently – insisted today there was no justification for the US imposing the tariffs on national security grounds.
It will be seen as a blow to hopes for a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and America.
Theresa May’s (pictured in Downing Street last week) Government insisted today there was no justification for the US imposing the tariffs on national security grounds
Uk steel plants (including at Port Talbot, pictured) face a steep decline in exports when the new tariffs come into force
British steel sent to America will be slapped with a 25 per cent premium from tomorrow after the Donald Trump refused to extend a waiver to EU countries
A Government spokesman said: ‘We are deeply disappointed that the US has decided to apply tariffs to steel and aluminium imports from the EU on national security grounds.
‘The UK and other European Union countries are close allies of the US and should be permanently and fully exempted from the American measures on steel and aluminium.’
‘We have made clear to the US Government at the highest levels the importance of UK steel and aluminium to its businesses and defence projects.
‘We will continue to work closely with the EU and US Administration to achieve a permanent exemption, and to ensure that UK workers are protected and safeguarded.’
What are tariffs and why has Trump’s plan to impose them been met with such criticism?
Tariffs are charges which governments can slap on certain goods or products imported into the country.
Governments usually try to negotiate minimum tariffs so that goods can be traded freely around the world.
This is because for many years most politicians have agreed that free trade leads to greater wealth and makes products cheaper to buy in the shops.
But China has massively ramped up the amount of steel it has produced in recent years and dumped it cheaply on the market.
This global steel glut has made it far harder for steel industries in other countries to compete – prompting plant closures and job losses.
In the US this has sparked widespread anger which has led to Donald Trump imposing his hefty tariffs in a bid to protect the American steel industry.
But critics around the world have blasted the move – warning this will result in a tit for tat trade war which will only push up prices in the long term.
And while Mr Trump has hinted Britain could be exempted from the charges, practicably this would be impossible while the UK remains in the EU, which imposes ad receives tariffs as a single trading bloc.
There would have to be an EU-wide exemption for Britain to avoid the tariffs.
Barry Gardiner, Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary, also slammed the tariffs.
He said: ‘These tariffs present a grave threat to our steel and aluminium industries and to thousands of UK jobs.
‘President Trump is using national security as an excuse for these unjustified and protectionist tariffs. They fly in the face of WTO rules and risk a global trade war.
‘Liam Fox needs to take urgent action to defend British industry from these unfair measures. If the Government had any doubt as to how ‘special’ our relationship with the US is to President Trump then these tariffs make it clear that even close allies will not be spared from his America First policies.
‘Labour would coordinate a decisive set of countermeasures with the EU and challenge the USA at the WTO.’
A British Steel spokesman said: ‘US sales represent a small percentage of our exports and while disappointed by the announcement, we look forward to continuing to supply unique and high quality products to our valued American customers and growing global customer base.
‘Tariffs will impact on the world market, so we’ll continue working directly with the UK Government and UK Steel on this matter, and to ensure Britain and Europe don’t again become dumping grounds for cheap steel.’
Gareth Stace, director of trade body UK Steel, said: ‘President Trump had already loaded the gun and today we now know that the US administration has unfortunately fired it and potentially started a damaging trade war.
‘Since President Trump stated his plans to impose blanket tariffs on steel imports almost three months ago, the UK steel sector had hoped for the best, but still feared the worst.
‘With the expiration of the EU exemption now confirmed to take effect tomorrow, unfortunately our pessimism was justified and we will now see damage not only to the UK steel sector, but also the US economy.’
Labour MP Nic Dakin, who represents the steel town of Scunthorpe, told MailOnline: ‘The Conservative Government has failed to persuade President Trump that imposing steel tariffs is wrong.
‘Last time the US did this in 2002 it resulted in a trade war and the loss of hundreds of thousands of US jobs. It is time for the UK Government to take tough action to support the UK steel industry.
‘It is time for them to stand up for steel, stand up for the English and Welsh Towns that rely on manufacturing and voted Leave to get a better deal. If the Conservative Government won’t stand up for steel it won’t stand up for Britain.’
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was ‘concerned’ by the decision
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was ‘concerned’ by the decision.
‘The EU believes these unilateral US tariffs are unjustified and at odds with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules,’ said Mr Juncker. ‘This is protectionism, pure and simple.’
EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said it was ‘a bad day for world trade’.
‘We did everything to avoid this outcome,’ said Ms Malmstrom.
‘I have argued for the EU and the US to engage in a positive transatlantic trade agenda and for the EU to be fully, permanently and unconditionally exempted from these tariffs. This is also what EU leaders have asked for.
‘Throughout these talks, the US has sought to use the threat of trade restrictions as leverage to obtain concessions from the EU. This is not the way we do business, and certainly not between long-standing partners, friends and allies.’
Ms Malmstrom said EU would make a protest at the World Trade Organisation and take retaliatory measures.
Following talks in Paris with US trade secretary Wilbur Ross today, France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire said: ‘Global trade is not a gunfight at the OK Corral.
‘It’s not about who attacks whom, and then wait and see who is still standing at the end.’
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire (left) met US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in Paris today for last ditch talks on extending the waiver
Stephen Doughty, a Labour MP and supporter of anti-Brexit campaign the People’s Vote, said: ‘At a time when a global trade war looks like a very real possibility, the UK could be about to enter the brutal world of international trade with just Liam Fox wielding the equivalent of a plastic spoon for protection.
‘The UK steel industry already faces significant challenges and now thousands of jobs could be put at risk directly or indirectly by diversionary dumping.
‘The reckless actions of Donald Trump and his irresponsible approach to international politics means now is not the time for the UK to be crashing out of the world’s largest trading bloc or pulling away from our European friends and allies.’
The CBI’s international director Ben Digby said: ‘The President’s measures are deeply concerning for firms in the UK, for close trading partners and across supply chains.
‘Overproduction can distort the global market and erode the level playing field that business depends on to stay competitive. But this is a shared challenge whose root causes should be tackled jointly by the EU and the US.
‘There are no winners in a trade war, which will damage prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. These tariffs could lead to a protectionist domino effect, damaging firms, employees and consumers in the US, UK and many other trading partners.’
UK steel workers have fought for many years to protect their jobs amid a global oversupply of steel (pictured are protesting workers in 2015)
The U.S. had a $150 billion trade deficit with the EU last year – a gap that Trump has slammed as ‘unacceptable.’
The administration is planning to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports after failing to win concessions from the European Union, a move that could provoke retaliatory tariffs and inflame trans-Atlantic trade tensions.
The move could invite immediate retaliation from those getting hit with the tariffs.
The EU has already threatened to slap retaliatory tariffs on U.S. orange juice, peanut butter and other goods.
Labour MP Stephen Doughty said Trump’s decision met Brexit Britain would be trying to secure new deals with foreign partners during a trade war
Canada the top source of imported U.S. steel, also is expected to retaliate, although Canadian and U.S. officials are in talks intended to avert the crisis.
U.S. and European officials held last-ditch talks in Paris on Thursday to try to reach a deal, though hopes are low and fears of a trade war are mounting.
Trump blames the European governments rather than broader market forces.
He also has chafed at a 10 per cent tax the EU slaps on U.S.-made cars, the Washington Post reported. When European cars enter the U.S., they face only a 2.5 percent duty.
The push against Europe comes days after the White House announced the U.S. would go ahead with a separate plan to slap 25 per cent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods.
The administration is also attempting to renegotiate NAFTA.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed her opposition to the tariffs Thursday.
‘We believe these tariffs aren’t compatible with WTO rules,’ she said in Lisbon. EU leaders want ‘exceptions from these tariffs and have offered to hold talks on a certain basis.’
But if there are no exemptions, she said, ‘We will respond in an intelligent, decisive and joint way.’