Macron tells Trump US tariffs are ‘illegal’, says EU will respond firmly

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the Ministerial Council Meeting of the OECD forum 2018, at the organization headquarter in Paris, France, 30 May 2018. [EPA-EFE/ETIENNE LAURENT]

Emmanuel Macron told Donald Trump late Thursday that tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from the European Union were “illegal” and that the EU would respond in a “firm and proportionate manner”, the Elysée Palace said.

The phone call between the French president and his US counterpart came after the US announced the steep metals tariffs would be imposed on the European Union, Canada and Mexico as of midnight.

Macron, who has forged a good relationship with the US president, spoke to Trump on the phone, urging him to take part in negotiations with the EU, China and Japan to strengthen the rules of the World Trade Organisation.

He called the decision to impose tariffs a “mistake”, warning that “economic nationalism” would penalise everyone including the US.

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

President Donald Trump announced on Thursday (31 May) that the United States would slap tariffs on steel and aluminium from the EU, Canada and Mexico, prompting Europe to say it would respond with “counterbalancing measures within hours” in what amounts to a trade war with Washington.

Earlier Thursday Macron told journalists at the Elysée Palace that he deplored the American decision.

“I think this decision is a mistake in many ways because it responds to existing international imbalances in the worst way — by breaking up and creating economic nationalism.

“And nationalism is war. That’s exactly what happened in the 30s,” he added.

EU 'will react firmly' to US steel, aluminium tariffs

The EU “will react firmly” to defend its interests against steep US trade tariffs on steel and aluminium, the European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday (1 March).

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday that France will refuse to enter into trade talks with the United States while punishing steel and aluminum tariffs are in effect.

“We refuse to negotiate under pressure,” Le Maire told reporters while en route to a Group of Seven meeting in Canada. And “being hit by the tariffs will not help us to open the door to any kind of negotiation.”

Macron: We won’t negotiate ‘with a gun to our head’ over US tariffs

The EU’s temporary exclusion from punitive US tariffs on steel and aluminium “did not appear satisfactory to us,” French President Emmanuel Macron said after an EU summit on Friday (23 March). “Europe will not waiver,” he said.

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