The European Union expects to hit U.S. imports with additional duties from July, ratcheting up a transatlantic trade conflict after Washington imposed its own tariffs on incoming EU steel and aluminium.
EU members have given broad support to a European Commission plan to set 25 per cent duties on up to 2.8 billion euros (US$3.3-billion) of U.S. exports in response to what is sees as illegal U.S. action. EU exports that are now subject to U.S. tariffs are worth 6.4 billion euros.
“The Commission expects to conclude the relevant procedure in coordination with member states before the end of June so that the new duties start applying in July,” Commissioner Maros Sefcovic told a news conference on Wednesday after he and other commissioners endorsed the plan for duties on U.S. imports.
That plan also includes duties of between 10 and 50 per cent on a further 3.6 billion euros of U.S. imports in March 2021 or potentially sooner if the World Trade Organization has ruled the U.S. measures illegal.
U.S. products on the list include orange juice, bourbon, jeans, motorcycles and a variety of steel products.
The European Union, Canada and Mexico have all responded after U.S. President Donald Trump last Friday ended their exemptions from tariffs of 25 per cent for steel and 10 per cent for aluminium.
Canada has announced it will impose retaliatory tariffs on $16.6-billion worth of U.S. exports from July 1. Mexico put tariffs on American products ranging from steel to pork and bourbon on Tuesday
Some of the products chosen are designed to target states of senior Republicans who are seeking to retain control of both chambers of Congress in hotly contested November elections.
The European Commission launched a legal challenge against the U.S. tariffs at the World Trade Organization last Friday. It is also assessing the need for measures to prevent a surge of imports of steel and aluminium into Europe as non-EU exporters divert product initially bound for the United States.
European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Monday that preliminary “safeguard” measures for steel could come as early as July.