The Trump administration announced that it is slapping steel and aluminum tariffs on close European allies after months-long negotiations came up short – after a key European diplomat warned that trade shouldn’t have a gunfight mentality.
The Commerce Department announced it was going ahead with the tariffs on Thursday.
President Trump had announced the metal tariffs on March that would place a 25 per cent tariff on imported steel and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum.
Close allies immediately balked, and the administration granted temporary waivers that expire Friday. The administration could announce the new tariffs as early as Thursday after markets close.
‘Global trade is not a gunfight at the OK Corral,’ France’s finance minister warned after meeting U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to try to find a way to avoid an escalating trade war.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, left, welcomes US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross prior to their meeting at French Economy Ministry in Paris, France, Thursday, May 31, 2018. He said global trade is not a gunfight at the ‘OK Corral’
The Trump administration announced Thursday it is going ahead with tariffs on key allies
‘It’s not about who attacks whom, and then wait and see who is still standing at the end,’ said the finance minister, Bruno Le Maire.
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.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, left, welcomes US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross prior to their meeting at French Economy Ministry in Paris, France, Thursday, May 31, 2018. U.S. tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports are expected after Trump administration’s failure to win concessions from EU. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
The EU has already threatened to slap retaliatory tariffs on U.S. orange juice, peanut butter and other goods.
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.
Cars to be exported are seen at a port in Lianyungang in China’s eastern Jiangsu province on May 31, 2018. China on May 30 lambasted “sudden flip-flops” in US policy after President Donald Trump said he was moving to finalise trade sanctions against it — even as a US delegation arrived in Beijing for talks
Wilbur Ross, U.S. commerce secretary, looks on during a panel discussion at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forum in Paris, France, on Wednesday, May 30, 2018
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.
The tariffs are likely to go into effect on the EU with an announcement before Friday’s deadline, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The administration’s plans could change if the two sides are able to reach a last-minute agreement, said the people, who spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Ross told Le Figaro newspaper that the announcement would come Thursday, likely after markets close, and that the Americans remain open to negotiations.
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.’
EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Thursday the European side is ‘ready to deal with any kind of scenario, and to defend the EU interests and international trade law.’
Trump announced in March that the United States would slap a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, citing national security interests. But he granted an exemption to the EU and other U.S. allies; that reprieve expires Friday.
‘Realistically, I do not think we can hope’ to avoid either U.S. tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminum, said Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union’s trade commissioner. Even if the U.S. were to agree to waive the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, Malmstrom said, ‘I expect them nonetheless to want to impose some sort of cap on EU exports.’
French President Emmanuel Macron attends the OECD ministerial council meeting on ‘Refounding Multilateralism’, in Paris, France, Wednesday, May 30, 2018. Macron warned against trade wars in an impassioned speech about international cooperation Wednesday, two days before the Trump administration decides whether to hit Europe with punishing new tariffs. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool Photo via AP)
Malmstrom is meeting U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Paris on Thursday among other international trade chiefs.
If the U.S. moves forward with its tariffs, the EU has threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. orange juice, peanut butter and other goods in return.
Fears of a global trade war are already weighing on investor confidence and could hinder the global economic upturn. European officials argue that tit-for-tat tariffs will hurt growth on both sides of the Atlantic.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the U.S. tariffs ‘unjustified, unjustifiable and dangerous.’
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General Angel Gurria arrive at the OECD ministerial council meeting on ‘Refounding Multilateralism’, in Paris, France, Wednesday, May 30, 2018. Macron warned against trade wars in an impassioned speech about international cooperation Wednesday, two days before the Trump administration decides whether to hit Europe with punishing new tariffs. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool Photo via AP)
‘This will only lead to the victory of those who want less growth, those who don’t think we can develop our economies across the world. We think on the contrary that global trade must have rules in a context of multilateralism. We are ready to rebuild this multilateralism with our American friends,’ he said.
Tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. can help local producers of the metals by making foreign products more expensive. But they can also increase costs more broadly for U.S. manufacturers who cannot source all their needs locally and have to import the materials. That hurts the companies and can lead to more expensive consumer prices, economists say.
‘Unilateral responses and threats over trade war will solve nothing of the serious imbalances in world trade. Nothing,’ French President Emmanuel Macron said in an impassioned speech Wednesday.
In a clear reference to Trump, Macron added: ‘These solutions might bring symbolic satisfaction in the short term. … One can think about making voters happy by saying, ‘I have a victory, I’ll change the rules, you’ll see.”
But Macron said those ‘who waged bilateral trade wars … saw an increase in prices and an increase in unemployment.’
Besides the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, the Trump administration is also investigating possible limits on foreign cars in the name of national security.
Ross criticized the EU for its tough negotiating position. But German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier insisted the Europeans were ready to negotiate special trade arrangements, notably for liquefied natural gas and industrial goods, including cars.