U.S. allies hit back over steel and aluminium tariffs

Daniel Fowler
June 1, 2018

European Union executive Susan Danger said US companies in Britain oppose the decision and urged Trump to reconsider. Throughout these talks, the U.S. has sought to use the threat of trade restrictions as leverage to obtain concessions from the EU.

"We want open markets, free markets but we have to convince the USA administration", Altmaier told German television.

"Today's action targets America's allies when we should be working with them to address the unfair trading practices of countries like China", he added, saying he intends to work with the president on "better options" to help U.S. workers and consumers.

Macron warned that "economic nationalism leads to war".

Canada announced today that it will impose heavy dollar-for-dollar retaliatory tariffs on up to $16.6 billion of American imports.

Tata Steel has urged the EU to take "swift and robust action" in response to a USA decision to impose a 25% tariff on European steel. Brussels has lodged an eight-page list at the global trade body of goods it would hit with retaliatory measures.

Mr Ross said there was "no longer a very precise date when they might be concluded and therefore (Canada and Mexico) were added into the list of those who will bear tariffs".

Canada, the largest supplier of steel to the United States, will impose tariffs covering C$16.6 billion (9.6 billion pounds) on USA imports, including whiskey, orange juice, steel, aluminium and other products.

France's junior trade minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said he expects European Union counter-measures to be completed by mid-June.

"We believe, as we have always said, it is a great outcome for the United States and for Australia".

He added: "We believe in a rules-based system".

Mr. Trump had signaled earlier this year that the tariffs were coming, but also invited targeted countries to make the case that they should be exempted.

In announcing his country's response, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was "inconceivable" that "Canada could be considered a national security threat to the United States", noting that US fighter planes and tanks contain Canadian steel.

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Trump had reportedly offered Canada and Mexico, America's two partners in the North American Fair Trade Agreement, an exemption from the tariffs if they agreed to his demands concerning the renegotiation of NAFTA.

Some of the threats are real, such as the recently imposed tariff on newsprint, a tax on USA newspapers and consumers in order to mollify a particular industrial constituency. The threatened tariffs are all about putting more negotiating coinage on the US side of the NAFTA negotiating table. "So now this door for the moment is closed".

FILE - Jose Mata grinds a steel pipe at the Borusan Mannesmann plant in Baytown, Texas, April 23, 2018.

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 US will not change because of "offensive rhetoric or unjustified measures" such as the tariffs.

The US administration also launched a national security investigation last week into auto and truck imports, using the same 1962 law it has applied to curb incoming steel and aluminium. "It's not in our interests, it's not in the EU's interests, and it's not in the interest of American workers".

EU members have given broad support to a European Commission plan to set duties on 2.8 billion euros ($A4.3.billion) of U.S. exports if Washington ends the tariff exemption.

Juncker said the European Union will not negotiate under threat.

Mr Ross said talks with Canada and Mexico over revising NAFTA were "taking longer than we had hoped".

"These tariffs are an affront to the long-standing security partnership between Canada and the United States, and in particular, an affront to the thousands of Canadians who have fought and died alongside their American brothers in arms", he said, noting the US national security justification for its measures.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and several leading Republicans in Congress were critical of the administration's tariff action.

In a trade war it can be hard to tell friends from enemies.

In the NAFTA negotiations, the US side has put forward complex and largely unworkable formulas to calculate the rules of origin - often against the wishes of American automakers, who operate with global supply chains.

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