EU retaliatory tariffs on raft of US goods go into force

The EU imposed the raft of duties on US products in a tit-for-tat response to Donald Trump’s decision to slap stiff tariffs on European steel and aluminum exports. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2018
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EU retaliatory tariffs on raft of US goods go into force

  • Customs agents across Europe’s colossal market of 500 million people will now impose the duty, hiking prices on US-made products in supermarkets and across factory floors
  • Donald Trump claimed America had been obliged to levy the metals tariffs as it has been exploited as the world’s “piggy bank”

BRUSSELS: The European Union is enforcing tariffs on $3.4 billion in US products as of Friday in retaliation to duties the Trump administration has put on European steel and aluminum.
The goods targeted include typical American products like bourbon, peanut butter, and orange juice, in a way that seems designed to create political pressure on US President Donald Trump and senior US politicians.
"This response by the European Union is adequate, it is proportionate and it is reasonable. Needless to say, it is in full respect of EU and WTO rules," European Commission Alexander Winterstein.
Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent on EU steel and 10 percent on aluminum on June 1. Europeans claim that breaks global trade rules.
The spat is part of a wider tussle over global trade. In two weeks, the United States will start taxing $34 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing has vowed to immediately retaliate with its own tariffs on US soybeans and other farm products.
Customs agents across Europe’s colossal market of 500 million people will now impose the duty, hiking prices on US-made products in supermarkets and across factory floors.
“These measures are the logical consequence of the US decision,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
“They reflect a Europe that is resolute and principled,” he said.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said this week that the 28-nation bloc was “left with no other choice” but to impose tariffs of its own after the “unilateral and unjustified decision of the US.”
Together with US tariffs against Mexico and Canada, the trade battles have raised the spectre of a global trade war, spooking financial markets that fear major consequences to the global economy.
“We have a trade war — and it’s an escalating trade war,” SEB chief economist Robert Bergqvist said in an interview.
Brussels first drew up the list in March when Trump initially floated the 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum, which also target Canada, Mexico and other close allies.
The list does not specifically name brands but European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker spelled out in March that the bloc would target “Harley-Davidson, bourbon and Levi’s jeans.”
Cranberries, cranberry juice, orange juice, sweetcorn and peanut butter are among the other food products targeted.
Juncker said on Thursday that the US decision to impose tariffs “goes against all logic and history.”
“Our response must be clear but measured. We will do what we have to do to rebalance and safeguard,” he said.
European consumers would be able to find “alternatives,” European Commission Vice President for trade Jyrki Katainen said.
“If we chose products like Harley Davidson, peanut butter and bourbon, it’s because there are alternatives on the market. We don’t want to do anything that would harm consumers,” he said on Thursday.
“What’s more, these products will have a strong symbolic political impact.”
International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde warned on Thursday that trade war, as well as Brexit, were the key risks to the eurozone economy.
While she didn’t see a serious “direct impact of tariff increases... it’s a trend that is worrying, the breach of confidence that undermines confidence,” she said on the sidelines of eurozone minister talks in Luxembourg.
Transatlantic ties are at their lowest level for many years due to rows over a host of issues including the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.
Relations plumbed new depths at the recent G7 summit when Trump abruptly rejected the joint statement and bitterly insulted his Canadian host, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trump claimed America had been obliged to levy the metals tariffs as it has been exploited as the world’s “piggy bank.” He is also targeting EU auto imports with a US probe now underway.
Trump’s outbursts were the latest in which he has clashed with America’s closest allies, even as he has had warm words for autocrats like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with whom he had a historic meeting earlier this month, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
But US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell said on Thursday that Trump’s approach toward his allies was about “strategic renovation.”
“Strengthening the West means making hard decisions today when we initially disagree, rather than continuing to accept the appearance of transatlantic unity,” he told the Carnegie Europe think-tank in Brussels.


US courts allies with free trade offers at G20, France resists

Updated 22 July 2018
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US courts allies with free trade offers at G20, France resists

BUENOS AIRES: The US sought to woo Europe and Japan with free trade deals on Saturday to gain leverage in an escalating tariff war with China but its overtures faced stiff resistance from France at a G20 finance ministers meeting dominated by trade tensions.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the gathering of the financial leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies in Buenos Aires that he was renewing President Donald Trump’s proposal that G7 allies drop trade barriers between them.
“If Europe believes in free trade, we’re ready to sign a free trade agreement,” Mnuchin said, adding that such a deal would require the elimination of tariffs, non-tariff barriers and subsidies. “It has to be all three issues.”
Trump has angered European allies by imposing import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, causing the European Union to retaliate with similar amounts of tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Kentucky bourbon and other products.
Trump, who frequently criticizes Europe’s 10 percent car tariffs, is also studying adding a 25 percent levy on automotive imports, which would hit both Europe and Japan hard.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the European Union would not consider launching trade talks with the United States unless Trump first withdraws the steel and aluminum tariffs and stands down on a car tariff threat.
“We refuse to negotiate with a gun to our head,” Le Maire told reporters on the sidelines of the G20 meeting.
Trump has angered European allies by imposing import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, causing the European Union to retaliate with similar amounts of tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Kentucky bourbon and other products.
Trump, who frequently criticizes Europe’s 10 percent car tariffs, is also studying adding a 25 percent levy on automotive imports, which would hit both Europe and Japan hard.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the European Union would not consider launching trade talks with the United States unless Trump first withdraws the steel and aluminum tariffs and stands down on a car tariff threat.
“We refuse to negotiate with a gun to our head,” Le Maire told reporters on the sidelines of the G20 meeting.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde presented the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Buenos Aires with a report warning that existing trade restrictions would reduce global output by 0.5 percent.
In the briefing note prepared for G20 ministers, the IMF said global economic growth may peak at 3.9 percent in 2018 and 2019, while downside risks have increased due to the growing trade conflict.
Lagarde’s presentation came shortly after Mnuchin said there was no “macro” effect yet on the US economy.
Mnuchin said that, while there were some “micro” effects such as retaliation against US-produced soybeans, lobsters and bourbon, he did not believe that tariffs would keep the United States from achieving sustained 3 percent growth this year.
The US dollar fell the most in three weeks on Friday against a basket of six major currencies .DXY after Trump complained again about the greenback’s strength and about Federal Reserve interest rate rises, halting a rally that had driven the dollar to its highest in a year.
The last G20 finance meeting in Buenos Aires in late March ended with no firm agreement by ministers on trade policy except for a commitment to “further dialogue.”
Brazilian Finance Minister Eduardo Guardia said participants agreed the risks to the global economy had increased since their last meeting, citing rising trade tensions and higher interest rates by major central banks.
He said the final communique would reflect the need for members, particularly in emerging markets that have been roiled by currency weakness, to undertake reforms to protect themselves against volatility.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he would use the meeting to advocate for a rules-based trading system, but that expectations were low.
“I don’t expect tangible progress to be made at this meeting,” Scholz told reporters on the plane to Buenos Aires.
The US tariffs will cost Germany up to 20 billion euros ($23.44 billion) in income this year, according to the head of German think-tank IMK.
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said he hoped the debate at the G20 gathering would lead to an easing of retaliatory trade measures.
“Trade protectionism benefits no one involved,” he said. “I think restraint will eventually take hold.”