BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is still seeking clarity from Washington about whether the 28-nation bloc will be exempt from President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, the EU’s top trade official said Friday.
“We hope that we can get confirmation that the EU is excluded from this,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem told policy makers, experts and reporters at a German Marshall Fund event in Brussels.
But she warned that if the issue can’t be resolved bilaterally or through the World Trade Organization, then “we will have to protect our industry with rebalancing measures.”
Trump announced Thursday that he was slapping tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, but he temporarily exempted big steel producers Canada and Mexico — provided they agree to renegotiate a North American trade deal to his satisfaction.
He said that other countries could be spared if they can convince the administration that their steel and aluminum exports don’t threaten American industry.
The EU has warned that it stands ready to slap retaliatory tariffs on U.S. steel, agricultural and other products, like peanut butter, cranberries and orange juice.
“Everything you have for breakfast,” Malmstroem said. She noted that under WTO rules, the EU has 90 days to enact the measures.
Malmstroem underlined that the EU is committed to open, global trade, and also to working with Washington on what the EU believes is the cause of the steel industry’s problem — an oversupply on global markets.
“We want to trade,” she said. “We want to set global rules. We want to increase the possibilities for us to trade, for our people to meet, to harness and shape globalization, to make sure that we get proper jobs.”
Malmstroem, who will hold trade talks with U.S. and Japanese trade officials Saturday, also rejected Trump’s assertion that the tariffs are needed to protect U.S. national security, especially when most EU countries are members of NATO.
“We are friends. We are allies. We work together. We cannot possibly be a threat to national security in the U.S., so we are counting on being excluded,” she said.
Europe’s main steel federation said Trump’s reasons for slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum are absurd and warned that the move could cost tens of thousands of jobs across the continent.
EUROFER chief Axel Eggert said “the national security justification the president has used - and the linking of these tariffs to NATO funding - is an absurdity.”
The EU exported about 5.5 million tons of steel to the U.S. last year. European steel producers are concerned about a loss of market access, but also that steel from elsewhere will flood in.
“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,” Eggert said.