US Hits EU, Canada and Mexico With Metal Tariffs Despite Brussels' Backlash

After months in which it appeared the Trump administration had been backing away from tariffs amid infighting between the president's top economic advisers, Washington has over the past week ramped up its threats on trade.

Among the concessions the Trump administration is seeking is an agreement on a quota that would limit European steel and aluminium exports to the United States while also wanting the 10 percent auto tariff to be lowered, for which it would be ready to grant an exemption to the EU from the steel tariff. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said after a meeting with Ross that the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs would be a step into risky territory.

But the European Union refused, repeatedly insisting that it must be permanently exempted from the new tariffs before any further negotiations could take place. "This is protectionism, pure and simple".

For instance, the Beer Institute - an industry group that represents USA brewers - warned that aluminum tariffs would drive up prices of beer cans.

France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had met with Ross on Thursday in a bid to end the stand-off over steel and aluminum, a move that ultimately failed to sway the US administration.

Nafta talks continue, with a deal needed probably within days to have any hope of passing the current US congress and with Mexican elections one month away.

The US today announced the end of exemption on steel and aluminum tariffs on imports from European Union, Canada and Mexico.

The Trump administration has given permanent metals tariff exemptions to several countries including Australia, Argentina and South Korea, but in each case set import quotas. "It's not that we can't talk just because there's tariffs", he said.

Mysterious rise in emissions of ozone-damaging chemical
To put that in perspective, production of CFC-11, marketed under the trade name Freon, peaked at about 430,000 tons per year in the 1980s.

"Our U.S. friends must know that if they were to take aggressive actions against Europe, Europe would not be without reaction", French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday, after unsuccessful last-minute meetings with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Paris.

"We continue to be quite willing and indeed eager to have further discussions", Ross said.

The EU has vowed to hit back at the U.S. with tariffs on American goods, including iconic items such as Harley-Davidson motorbikes, blue jeans and bourbon whiskey.

Ross said retaliatory measures by Canada and Mexico won't affect the NAFTA talks.

"The EU, Canada, and Mexico make up about half of USA steel imports, so the economic effect of these tariffs would be far more than anything we've seen to date", he said.

Trump imposed the steel and aluminum penalties under a 1962 law that gives the president broad power to increase or reduce tariffs on goods deemed critical to national security. European officials argue that tit-for-tat tariffs will hurt growth on both sides of the Atlantic and Canada said before the announcement that it would respond in kind. "There is no longer a very precise date when they will be concluded", Ross said Thursday.

But EU leaders have immediately vowed to retaliate against the United States, with the bloc ready to launch a case at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) where it will trigger a "dispute settlement" as it believes the USA are breaking agreed worldwide trade rules.

Trump invoked a 1962 trade law to erect protections for United States steel and aluminium producers on national security grounds, amid a worldwide glut of both metals that is largely blamed on excess production in China.

  • Ronnie Bowen