EU-US trade war: Brussels prepares new tariffs in retaliatory strike against Trump

The US President in January extended tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium to derivative products, such as steel nails and aluminium cables. These tariffs, from which Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea were exempted, came into effect on February 8. Brussels is now planning retaliatory strike on Washington, risking the potential off a full-blown trade war.

The EU Commission will slap 20 percent duties on lighters, seven percent on plastic fittings for furniture and increase the tariffs on playing cards to 14.4 percent.

Eurocrats will hit Washington with tariffs on May 8 unless President Trump agrees to deescalate trade tensions between the two sides.

A Commission spokesman insisted the measures were designed to be proportionate and highlighted the importance of maintaining international trade flows during the coronavirus crisis.

He said: “The EU is adopting measures in reaction to the US extension of its import duties on steel and aluminium to certain derivative products.

“The current crisis, associated with the coronavirus pandemic, illustrates the importance of maintaining open trade and operational supply chains. In order to assist the recovery, we expect our partners to remove any unlawful duties in place, including those on steel and aluminium.

“In the meantime, we continue working with our US partners – in respect of our existing mandates – on the contours of a possible new understanding on trade issues, including areas very relevant for the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.”

The EU will first need to inform the World Trade Organisation of its plans before implementing the retaliatory measures.

EU countries and other nations, such as China and Japan, have been subject to US metal tariffs based on national security concerns since 2018.

Before the global pandemic, top eurocrat Ursula von der Leyen was working on a proposed trade deal with the US to ease recent tensions with President Trump.

But new clashes have emerged with claims that the US is attempting to wrest control of vital medical supplies, according to French officials.

US buyers turned up and offered three times as much as their French counterparts for protective masks shortly before the equipment was due to leave Shanghai airport.

Jean Rottner, a doctor and president of the GrandEst regional council, said several million masks due to be delivered to the one of the worst-hit areas of France were lost as a result.

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He told RTL radio: “On the tarmac, they arrive, get the cash out… so we really have to fight.”

Rénaud Muselier, the head of the south-eastern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, told BFMTV: “The icing on the cake, there is a foreign country that paid three times the price of the cargo on the tarmac.”

Their accounts were rejected by a senior US official.

The source told AFP: “The United States government has not purchased any masks intended for delivery from China to France.

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“Reports to the contrary are completely false.”

The Commission insists its official are still working with Washington to bring an end to recent trade tensions.

A spokesman said: “Contacts between the European Commission and the United States are continuing with a view to exploring the contours of a possible new understanding on trade issues.”

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