EU readying tit-for-tat tariffs on $20 billion of US goods

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström gives a press conference at the end of a European foreign affairs council on trade in Brussels, Belgium, 22 May 2018. [Stephanie Lecocq/EPA/EFE]

The European Union Commission is preparing to introduce tariffs on $20 billion of US goods if Washington imposes trade levies on imported cars, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter today (25 July).

“We hope that it doesn’t come to that and that we can a solution. If not, the EU Commission is preparing a rather long list of many American goods. It would be around $20 billion,” she said.

Any new European tariffs will not be directed at specific American states, she said. “No, now it’s more general goods such as agricultural products, machinery, high-tech products and other things,” she said.

She said that she didn’t think US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s proposal to drop tariffs, non-tariff trade barriers and subsidies was serious, pointing out that the US has laws and subsidies protecting American industries.

“We tried earlier in TTIP negotiations to make the United States loosen those laws. It was completely impossible. They did not move a millimetre,” Malmström told Dagens Nyheter.

Malmström is part of EU delegation in Washington for talks today on a long-term trade deal. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is scheduled to meet Trump in a last-ditch effort to convince him to hold off imposing punitive tariffs on European auto exports to the US.

Trump pumps up the volume ahead of Juncker visit

US President Donald Trump insisted Tuesday (24 July) that imposing tariffs forces other countries to negotiate with Washington, a day before the European Union chief visits trying to prevent an all-out trade war.

“Basically, I’m an optimistic person, but heading in to this I’m moderately optimistic. But one must always try,” Malmström said.

Juncker not optimistic

Juncker dampened expectations just ahead of his talks with Trump.

“I am not very optimistic. I know Mr Trump pretty well. I have met him frequently and know how to deal with him and know how he deals with others. We will negotiate as equals,” Juncker told German public broadcaster ZDF.

Juncker said that the EU is “not in the dock — we don’t need to defend ourselves.

“We are here to explain ourselves and explore ways to avoid a trade war,” he said.

Juncker renewed his pledge of retaliatory measures should Trump make good on his threat to slap new tariffs on EU car imports.

“We are ready to do that,” he said.

“We are in a position to respond appropriately right away.”

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