U.s. Taxes: the EU expects “clarifications” at a crucial meeting in Brussels

The vice-president of the european Commission, Jyrki Katainen during a press conference on the u.s. taxes on steel and aluminium, the march 9, 2018 in Brussels (Photo EMMANUEL DUNAND. AFP)

The european Union intends to obtain Saturday, of the “clarifications” from the United States on the customs taxes imposed by Donald Trump on the steel and the aluminum, at a first meeting as crucial in Brussels between representatives from european, american and japanese trade.

“Don’t expect everything to be resolved. It is a meeting, not THE meeting”, acknowledged Friday the vice-president of the european Commission, Jyrki Katainen.

But “we need clarification” and start “a dialogue” with the United States, in order to avoid escalation towards a conflict-global trade, he added.

This meeting was long-planned, well in advance of the announcements made by Donald Trump on Thursday, and was initially intended to deal with the problems posed by overcapacity in steel. It will convene from 9: 00 am 8: 00 am GMT) at the premises of the Commission, the u.s. Trade representative Robert Lighthizer, the japanese minister of Economy, Hiroshige Seko, and the european Trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström. It is expected to continue with a working lunch

The Europeans believe that they should be exempt from these taxes of 25% steel and 10% aluminum and say they are ready to take action if necessary.

Japan, the main ally in asia, United States, has also warned that he would ask the United States to benefit from the exemption granted to Canada and Mexico, without which it could put in place “appropriate measures”.

– ‘Long day’ –

“The manner in which the exemption process will work is not very clear,” said Mr Katainen. But “I hope nobody expects us to make concessions on trade issues”, he warned.

“It is not a commercial negotiation. What we are talking about, it is a unilateral action against the international rules. We want to settle this before it becomes a real problem,”-he said.

The day of Saturday “will be long”, for its part, predicts Ms Malmström. “We hope that we will be able to obtain confirmation that the EU is exempt”.

In the opposite case, the counter-measures are ready. The most immediate, applicable in three months, would be taxed heavily, by way of retaliation, some american products are emblematic, such as jeans, motorcycles of large cylinder capacity, or the peanut butter, which Brussels has drawn up a list.

The EU also intends to implement measures so-called “safeguard” to protect its industry from foreign imports of steel and aluminum.

– ‘Affront’ –

It provides, finally, to file, if appropriate, a complaint before the world trade Organization (WTO), arguing that the us measures, under the guise of protecting national security, serve only to the advantage of its companies.

“We’re friends. We can not be a threat to the national security of the United States,” said Ms. Malmström.

Europe, which remains for the moment a united front in Washington, has exported $ 5.3 billion euros of steel and 1.1 billion euros of aluminum in 2017 to the United States.

Allies and rivals of the United States have denounced since Thursday to turn sharply protectionist american and an attack on free trade.

Germany, one of the largest exporting countries in the world, and directly criticized by Donald Trump, has been particularly scathing, decrying “protectionism,” american and an “affront” to its allies.

To the chinese ministry of commerce, it is an “abuse”, and the head of the diplomacy Wang Yi has promised an “appropriate response” in the event of a trade war with Washington.

China, by far the world’s largest steel producer, is regularly accused of being the origin of the overcapacity in the sector, because of its massive subsidies.

In the United States, the announcement of the tariffs has sparked a revolt within the camp, republican of Mr. Trump.

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