Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

Trump starts trade war with allies, Europe to respond 'within hours'

Donald Trump visit to Scotland Workers in the rust belt warmed to Donald Trump's Make America Great Again message
Patty Aguilar | 01 June, 2018, 17:15

Shares of industrial heavyweights Boeing (BA.N) and Caterpillar (CAT.N) both fell.

President Trump is imposing steep tariffs on steel and aluminum from three of America's biggest trading partners - Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

The European Commission's top trade official, Cecilia Malmstrom, said they had repeatedly pleaded with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to forgo the tariffs and try to come up with a joint solution. It could also place the United States in a trade dispute on more than one front.

Canada has promised tariffs on US exports of steel, aluminum and other goods, to match the USA tariffs "dollar for dollar".

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: 'These tariffs are totally unacceptable'. The Trump administration is transparently risking the country's alliances to extort concessions in separate negotiations over Nafta and trade with Europe.

"The steel that doesn't go to the US has to go somewhere, and it won't just happen equally around the world", Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel, said. It did not announce details, but the bloc has previously threatened 25% tariffs on USA products such as motorcycles, denim, cigarettes, cranberry juice and peanut butter.

Mexico complained that the tariffs will "distort worldwide trade" and said it will penalise U.S. imports including pork, apples, grapes, cheeses and flat steel.

The EU had already publicly announced that in the event tariffs did go ahead, it would impose levies on Levi-made jeans, Harley-Davidson motorbikes and bourbon whiskey. EU members have given broad support to a European Commission plan to set duties on 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) of US exports if Washington ends tariff exemptions.

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Europe felt that "legitimate exports" from the European Union to USA markets did not justify tariffs, David O'Sullivan the EU's Ambassador to the US told a discussion held by the Wilson Centre in Washington DC on Wednesday.

While the USA administration's decision to hit its European and North American allies with the metals tariffs was not aimed directly at China, it also sets the background for negotiations with Beijing, where Ross was headed on Friday for talks. U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue warned in a letter to the body's board that current trade policies could threaten economic progress and cause the loss of more than 2 million jobs, mostly in states that voted for Trump.

The Trump administration is using an obscure section from a half-century-old trade law to impose the tariffs on national-security grounds. A handful of other US trading partners, including South Korea, Australia, Argentina and Brazil, previously won permanent exemptions by agreeing to quotas on their exports. While the tariffs were originally announced on March 1, Trump allowed the trio of top trading partners to exempt from the rule while negotiations regarding NAFTA were ongoing.

The organisation's director Gareth Stace said: "US steel consumers are already reporting price increases and supply chain disruption and with $500m of steel exported from the United Kingdom to the U.S. previous year, United Kingdom steel producers are going to be hit hard".

Britain exports around £360m in steel to the United States every year, 10% of the industry's total exports.

Century Aluminum jumped 7.1 per cent, and Alcoa gained 3.6 per cent.

Gareth Stace, director of the trade association UK Steel, said: "This is a bad day for the steel sector, for worldwide relations and for free trade". The EU also started the process of filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization. Prasad warned that the United States was doing so at the cost of alienating key allies and undercutting broad worldwide pressure on China. A United States delegation arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for preliminary talks to establish the outlines for the weekend negotiations.

Theresa May has been criticised for refusing to stand up to Donald Trump after she opted not to join the leaders of other western countries in speaking out against the President's decision to impose hefty tariffs on exports to the US.

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