European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström responded on Friday to US President Donald J. Trump’s actions on setting tariffs for steel aluminium imports by telling journalists that the Berlaymont was seeking clarity on whether the bloc would be counted alongside Canada and Mexico and be excluded from the tariffs that Trump signed into law on March 8, adding that the bloc was ready to retaliate if it turns out Europe is targeted by the measures.
Trump new statute on aluminium and steel tariffs with see importing taxes on steel spike to 25% tariff and 10% for aluminium. The White House seemed to back-pedal slightly from its initial announcements earlier in the week, saying exemptions could be given to US allies.
The Commissioner said that the EU executive will ask for further information from Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative when she meets with him in Brussels on March 10.
According to what has been discussed during this week Canada and Mexico would be explicitly granted a temporary exemption, but it is not clear if this would be the case for the EU as well. Malmström said that Brussels would wait for answers before unleashing any retaliatory measures against the US.
“It is not crystal clear about what Trump said yesterday, so we will have to seek further clarity,” Malmström said. “We hope that we can get clarity that the EU is excluded from this,” she added. “If not we have been clear that we don’t think this is compatible with the WTO, so we will go to the WTO, possibly with some other friends.”
If the EU is not excluded from Trump’s actions, the European Commission has prepared a draft list of retaliatory tariffs on €2.8 billion of US imports, from three main categories, steel products, industrial products and agricultural products, ranging from Harley motorbikes and American jeans to peanut butter and bourbon whiskey.