The Economy minister Bruno Le Maire (G) in the company of the u.s. Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross (D), 31 may 2018, the ministry of Finance in Paris (Photo JACQUES DEMARTHON. AFP)
The european Union in the line-of-sight, the United States were hit hard on Thursday by imposing, in the name of protecting their “national security”, heavy tariffs on steel and aluminum imported, a move that raises an outcry from the other side of the Atlantic.
Washington has also announced that from Friday the application of customs duties on these imports of metals from Mexico and Canada, the two partners of the free trade agreement north american (Nafta), including the renegotiation, started it ten months ago, hardly able to reach.
This announcement, made by the secretary of commerce, Donald Trump, Wilbur Ross, was immediately followed by a volley of reactions of the Europeans, in particular, the european Commission head, stating that “counter-measures” would be announced “in the coming hours”.
The French president Emmanuel Macron as German chancellor Angela Merkel have denounced a decision “illegal”. Mr. Macron has blasted what he calls “economic nationalism”. “And economic nationalism, this is the war”,-he said. Angela Merkel is alarmed of”an escalation that will hurt everyone.”
In Berlin, the German government has immediately promised that the response to “America first” will be “united Europe,” warning that “the trade wars have no winner”.
For the president of the european Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, “the Eu cannot stay without reacting to it (…) What they can do, we are able to do exactly the same thing.”
“The United States will not leave us no other choice than to bring this dispute before the WTO (World Trade Organization) and impose additional duties on a number of products from the USA”, said Mr Juncker.
The United States has decided not to extend the temporary exemption granted to the european Union until Thursday at midnight and will set-up a tax of 25% steel and 10% aluminum.
Wilbur Ross, speaking at a press conference the telephone while he was in Paris for an OECD meeting, said that the United States did not want to grant to the 28 member countries of the european Union (EU) “exemption permanent and unconditional on taxes and fees”.
“We have had discussions with the european Commission, and even if we have made progress, they have not gone up to the point where it would have been justified to either extend the temporary exemption, or to grant a permanent exception”, justified the minister of Donald Trump.
– Retaliation –
Mr. Ross has downplayed the risks of retaliation on the part of the affected countries, arguing that imports from the european Union accounted for, “little thing” compared to the u.s. trade deficit (less than $ 3 billion). He added that there was “potential for discussion” with the european Union.
Hit also, because they do not bend fast enough in the face of claims to us in the re-negotiation of Nafta, Mexico and Canada, the major trading partners of the United States after China on Thursday announced trade retaliation.
Ottawa has been one of the first partners to respond concretely by announcing taxes on $ 16.6 billion of canadian dollars (in 12.8 bn USD) us products. Calling the us tariffs”unacceptable”, the prime minister of canada Justin Trudeau said: “these rates are an affront to the security partnership, long-standing between Canada and the United States, and in particular, an affront to the thousands of Canadians who fought and died alongside their brothers-in-arms canadian”.
The mexican government has condemned “categorically” the us measures, and announced retaliation. “Mexico will impose equivalent measures on various products,” including certain steels, fruits and cheeses, announced in a press release the ministry of the Economy.
The u.s. administration has also indicated that South Korea had negotiated a quota of steel, while Argentina, Australia and Brazil have taken measures to “limit the volume that they can ship it to United States instead of customs duties”.
Attending a G7 Finance, which began Thursday in Whistler, Canada, is the patron saint of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, has denounced a form of “questioning the way the world works” for decades, based on “the principle of trust and cooperation”. In Paris, the OECD secretary-general has called for “rescue of multilateralism”.