EU promises firm response to US steel tariffs

The European Union said it would propose countermeasures in response to the United States' decision to impose hefty tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
The European Union said it would propose countermeasures in response to the United States' decision to impose hefty tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - The European Union said it would propose countermeasures within days in response to the United States' decision to impose hefty tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, which it called a "blatant intervention" to protect US industry.

US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday (March 1) he would impose duties of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminium imports to shield US producers.

"We strongly regret this step, which appears to represent a blatant intervention to protect US domestic industry and not to be based on any national security justification," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement.

"We will not sit idly while our industry is hit with unfair measures that put thousands of European jobs at risk... The EU will react firmly and commensurately to defend our interests."

Juncker said that the Commission would put forward a proposal for WTO-compatible countermeasures against the United States in the next few days to rebalance the situation.

Speaking in Singapore, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said any move that would target Europe would be“deeply unfair”. 

“We are discussing different measures. Everything from bringing the case to the WTO (World Trade Organisation), alone or with partners who are also affected, and also safeguard measures and possible retaliation,” Malmstrom said. 

“These are things we are discussing internally in the (EU)Commission and with our member states. But obviously nothing will be announced until we know the full extent of these measures.” 

European steelmakers association Eurofer said a global tariff of 25 per cent on steel imports meant the United States had chosen trade confrontation, rather than a quota that could have allowed allies to maintain their US presence.

"From one day to the next, EU steel exports to the US - which were at five million tonnes in 2017 - will be cut drastically by an estimated 50 per cent or more," Eurofer director Genereal Axel Eggert said in a statement.

He said he welcomed the Commission's announcement of appropriate and swift measures.

"The EU must not allow that the moderate recovery in our industry over the last year is now being destroyed by the EU's most important political ally," Eggert said.