The European Union will go to the World Trade Organisation to impose its own measures if the bloc is not excluded from the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, EU’s trade chief said on Friday. U.S. President Donald Trump set import tariffs on Thursday of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies, backtracking from an earlier stance. EU Commissioner Cecilia 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, so 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. 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 and said she would seek further clarity on whether the EU was going to be included in the tariffs.