Germany backs European Union decision to respond to U.S. steel tariffs-spokesman

Frederick Owens
March 11, 2018

Brussels has prepared a list of USA products to hit with countermeasures if its exports are affected by the tariffs, but says it hopes to join Canada and Mexico in being exempted.

"Given the circumstances, during the visit of US Ambassador Lighthizer to Brussels this Saturday, the EU will convey the message that we expect the EU to be fully excluded from the US measures without preconditions or negotiations", a European Commission source said ahead of the talks on condition of anonymity.

The EU is also maintaining a threat of counter-measures that would target USA imports ranging from maize to motorcycles, and may publish its list next week to allow industry and other interested parties to give their input.

Mr Trump signed an order on Thursday to set import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, to come into effect in 15 days.

At the meeting in Brussels, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Japanese counterpart Hiroshige Seko discussed the tariffs as part of a trilateral effort to combat unfair trade practices. It intends to hit a range of USA goods with punitive tariffs in retaliation should the bloc face the USA import taxes.

Trump insisted in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron - a leading European Union player staunchly opposed to the tariffs - that the "decision is necessary and appropriate to protect national security".

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"We are an ally, not a threat", Katainen said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that no one will win a "race to the bottom" and said the tariffs risked "hurting everyone".

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday warned his United States counterpart Trump against forging ahead with the planned tariffs, saying they risked provoking a mutually destructive "trade war". He also added Australia to the list of likely carve-outs.

This shed some light on the tycoon's specific barbs against Germany - the biggest economy in the European Union - that have finger-pointed Berlin for contributing much less than the USA towards the funding of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Key U.S. trading partners and businesses have warned the tariffs could backfire, provoking a trade war and hurting allies like the European Union and Japan more than China, their main target. Under World Trade Organization rules, such counter-measures have to be in place within 90 days of the USA tariffs entering force.

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