U.S. tariffs: EU to seek WTO redress over non-exemption

Cecilia Malmstrom
Cecilia Malmstrom

The European Union says it expects to be excluded from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs but will go to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to impose its own measures if Washington presses ahead.

EU’s trade chief, Cecilia Malmstrom said this on Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday set import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum but exempted Canada and Mexico.

He also offered the possibility of excluding other allies, backtracking from an earlier stance.

Malmstrom, who coordinates policy for the world’s biggest trading bloc, said she shared U.S. concerns about overcapacity in the steel sector but did not believe in tariffs as a way to solve the problem.

“Europe is certainly not a threat to American internal security so we expect to be excluded,” Malmstrom told reporters before speaking at a conference in Brussels.

Asked at the conference whether she was ready to react if the 28-country EU was included in the U.S. tariffs, Malmstrom said she stood ready to go to the WTO, the international trade arbiter, to impose the bloc’s own safeguards within 90 days.

“We have been very clear that (the U.S. decision) is not in compliance with the WTO. That means we will go to the WTO, possibly with some other friends. We will have to protect our industry with rebalancing measures, safeguards,” she said.

European industry associations called on Malmstrom to respond if the EU was subjected to the tariffs, saying they would hit the steel and aluminum sectors hard.

“The loss of exports to the U.S., combined with an expected massive import surge in the EU, could cost tens of thousands of jobs in the EU steel industry and related sectors,” said Axel Eggert, Head of Steel Association EUROFER.

Aluminum producers’ association, European Aluminum, called for an “immediate” implementation of measures if necessary.

Malmstrom has a previously scheduled meeting with U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, in Brussels on Saturday. She said further clarity would be sought on whether the EU was going to be included in the tariffs.

Agency Report