WASHINGTON • The US said yesterday that it was moving ahead with tariffs on aluminium and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, ending a two-month exemption and potentially setting the stage for a trade war with some of its top allies.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters on a telephone briefing that a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminium imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico would go into effect at midnight.
"We look forward to continued negotiations, both with Canada and Mexico on the one hand, and with the European Commission on the other hand, because there are other issues that we also need to get resolved," he said.
Any retaliation by European nations or any other countries is unlikely to have much impact on the American economy, Mr Ross told CNBC in an interview yesterday.
He also said he believes there will not be a long-term impact on relations with the affected countries and that they "will get over this in due course".
Stocks in the United States fell as the Trump administration ignored the pleas from business lobbying groups including the US Chamber of Commerce to forego tariffs.
Mr Ross, speaking in Paris, offered little detail about what the EU, Canada and Mexico could do to have the tariffs lifted.
Those countries had secured temporary exemptions to the initial metal tariffs, which were announced in late March, while the Trump administration continued to push them for concessions on other fronts, like voluntarily limiting their metal shipments to the US and cutting tariffs on other products.
The EU and Mexico responded swiftly by announcing that they will be imposing counter measures.
The head of the European Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, said in a speech in Brussels: "This is a bad day for world trade."
"So we will immediately introduce a settlement dispute with the World Trade Organisation and will announce counter balancing measures in the coming hours.
"It is totally unacceptable that a country is imposing unilateral measures when it comes to world trade."
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement that the 28-nation bloc will launch a case at the WTO against Washington's move.
Mexico said it will impose wide-ranging "equivalent"measures, including on American steel and farm products.
REUTERS, NYTIMES, BLOOMBERG