EU prepares $20bn retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods

EU prepares $20bn retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods
Cecilia Malmström

The European Commission is drawing up a list of $20 billion of U.S. goods to hit with duties if Washington imposes tariffs on imported cars, European Union Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom said on the eve of her boss’s meeting with U.S. President, Donald Trump.

Malmstrom is in Washington for talks on trade, with European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, due on Wednesday to meet Trump in a bid to stop the United States from extending its import tariffs on EU steel and aluminum to cars and car parts.

“We hope that it doesn’t come to that and that we can find a solution. If not, the EU Commission is preparing a rather long list of many American goods. It would be around $20 billion,” Malmstrom told Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, on Wednesday.

In response to the U.S. metals tariffs, the EU has already imposed its own import duties on €2.8 billion ($3.3 billion) worth of U.S. goods, including products like bourbon and motorcycles that are made in some of the electoral districts that supported Trump.

Malmstrom said the next potential round of EU tariffs would not target specific U.S. states.

“No, now it’s more general goods such as agricultural products, machinery, high-tech products and other things,” she said.

The Commission briefed EU countries last week on the bloc’s possible response, saying in theory it could hit €9 billion of U.S. goods, according to EU sources.

However, some EU diplomats said the Commission was also looking at going for double that amount – to the level Malmstrom is suggesting – at half the duty rate.

A formal proposal would only come after the U.S. Commerce Department completed its investigation into whether car imports threaten national security. The report’s deadline is February 2019, but it is now expected by late August/early September.

The European Commission, which handles trade policy on behalf of the EU’s 28 members, has insisted that Juncker is seeking to open a dialogue with Trump, rather than to negotiate.

Trump on Tuesday tweeted that the EU was coming to negotiate a trade deal.

“I have an idea for them. Both the U.S. and the E.U. drop all tariffs, barriers and subsidies! That would finally be called Free Market and Fair Trade! Hope they do it, we are ready – but they won’t!” Trump wrote.

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