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Small 'window of opportunity' to avoid trade war: EU drafts list of US goods to target over President Donald Trump's tariffs

The European Commission is drafting a list of products upon which it could impose heavy taxes to send "a political message" to Donald Trump post his steel tariff announcement.

Published: 02nd March 2018 10:22 PM  |   Last Updated: 03rd March 2018 12:51 AM   |  A+A-

Representational image of European Union flag | AP

By AFP

BRUSSELS: The European Commission is drafting a list of products upon which it could impose heavy taxes to send "a political message" to Donald Trump if the US president follows through on plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium, a European source said Friday.

"There will be steel and aluminium products, but also industrial, agricultural and food products as well," said the source, who added Europe is "ready to act once there is specific confirmation" from Washington.

Also Read: Trade wars are good, and easy to win, says US President

Trump triggered a furore on Thursday by announcing he would set tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium to protect US producers as soon as next week. He did not specify if the tariffs would target specific countries.

The announcement has sparked an outcry among US allies such as Canada, the European Union, Mexico and Australia as well as China, the world's biggest steel producer.

There has been speculation that the EU could target for retaliation products made in states that heavily supported Trump in the presidential election, like Kentucky bourbon and Florida oranges.

The source, who works at the commission, said these products could end up being among those targeted, but that the list has not yet been finalised.

"You have to find a good balance between the political message sent to Trump and the products which we have a need for," said the source, who added the countermeasures would be taken in conformity with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

In 2002, the EU threatened to tax a range of US products as part of a "steel war" unleashed by the administration of George Bush.

The list included not just steel products but also orange juice, apples, sunglasses, photocopiers and other goods. The United States backed down before the EU carried out its threat to impose the retaliatory measures.

Small 'window of opportunity' to avoid Trump trade war: EU

US President Donald Trump still has a small chance to avoid a damaging global trade war brought on by his plans to impose huge tariffs on steel and aluminium, the EU's top trade official told AFP on Friday.

"There is a little window of opportunity still open," European Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen said in an interview.

"That means that the president of the US has not yet signed the proposals. So we do hope that he will reconsider his aims," the former Finnish prime minister said.

The outreached hand from Brussels will however fall on deaf ears as Trump on Friday welcomed the prospect of a trade war with other nations, remaining defiant in the face of the global uproar sparked by his raft of fresh tariffs.

"We are very close to a fast spreading trade war and in this kind of war there are only victims, not winners," Katainen said.

Katainen, who along with trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, handles trade policy for the EU, said he understood that the US was seeking to take a stand against China, which has flooded the globe with cheap steel.

"I understand the frustration but the medicine the US administration is willing to use is not right," he said.

A "global trade war... means in concrete terms unemployment, less economic growth, and worse relations between trading partners," he said.

As potential retaliation against the US, the commission has prepared a list of products which will be slapped with heavy tariffs if Trump follows through with his policy as expected next week.

Katainen refused to confirm speculation that the EU could target for products made in states that supported Trump in the presidential election, like Kentucky bourbon and Florida oranges.

In 2002, the EU threatened to tax a range of US products as part of a "steel war" unleashed by the administration of George W. Bush.

The list included not just steel products but also orange juice, apples, sunglasses, photocopiers and other goods.



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