Sunday, 24 June, 2018

United States allies vow to retaliate over Trump's metal tariffs

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has announced the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs U.S. hits allies with tariffs as trade war fears rise
Gerardo Duncan | 01 June, 2018, 20:29

"Today is a bad day for world trade", she said.

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said Trump's tariffs were "totally unacceptable" and promised to retaliate in due course.

The administration is taking the action under a relatively obscure US trade law meant to protect national security. The White House went on to say they were able to reach agreements with a number of other countries including Australia, Argentina, Brazil and South Korea.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada plans to levy tariff "countermeasures" of its own on up to $16.6 billion worth of imports of steel, aluminum and other products from the U.S.

He also said the trade balance between the countries was $2 billion in favor of the USA, and that Canada bought half of all US steel exports, easily the world's biggest market for US steel. The EU has refused, saying these measures would be in breach of World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations.

The European Union is weighing up slapping new rates on products from Harley-Davidsons, Levi jeans and bourbon whiskey - targeting specific products from states represented by influential Republicans in the Congress and Senate.

British officials appeared the most alarmed.

Trump imposed the steel and aluminum penalties under a 1962 law that gives the president broad power to increase or reduce tariffs on goods deemed critical to national security.

His cabinet colleague Luis Videgaray, the secretary of foreign affairs, said Mexico "has its limits" but its position on various themes in which it cooperates with the USA will not change because of "offensive rhetoric or unjustified measures" such as the tariffs. "The U.K. and other European Union countries are close allies of the USA and should be permanently and fully exempted". Now the tariffs on Canada, Europe and Mexico will take effect Friday morning.

With a week to go before the June 7-8 summit, there's still no final agreement on the agenda, British and Italian officials said.

"Earlier today, this message was conveyed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada: The United State will agree to a fair deal, or there will be no deal at all", Trump said.

Mr. Trump, in his proclamation announcing the new tariffs, said he did it to protect national security.

In the name of national security, the Trump administration is also investigating possible limits on foreign cars.

The imposition of tariffs was opposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.

Trudeau said the Trump move will hurt US interests. "Europe does not want a trade conflict".

Now, both of those men have left the White House, and Trump has gravitated instead toward seeking the counsel of trade hardliners like Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, senior adviser Peter Navarro, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Ildefonso Guajardo pointed out in an interview today that Mexico actually buys more US steel than it exports to that country.

"We continue to be quite willing and indeed eager to have further discussions", Mr Ross said.

The worldwide response to the action was swift.

The CBI warned the move would "damage prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic".

The Trump administration has demanded that Beijing make concessions and threatened to punish it for allegedly stealing U.S. technology by imposing tariffs on $50 billion of imports from China.

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