EU vows to strike back at Trump trade threat

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The EU warned on Tuesday it would take “appropriate measures” to defend its interests if the US imposes tough trade sanctions as President Donald Trump delivers on his protectionist policies. The US Commerce Department on Friday recommended imposing heavy tariffs on China, Russia and European exporters to counter a global glut in steel and aluminum, laying out an array of possible options in a report to Trump.

The move hands Trump his first opportunity to deliver on the “America First” trade promise, but has stoked fears of retaliation and a global trade war. European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Brussels would be “deeply concerned” by any sanctions hitting EU businesses. “We would be taking appropriate measures to defend EU industry, and we stand ready to react swiftly and appropriately in case our exports are affected by any restrictive trade measures from the United States,” Schinas told a daily briefing.

But Schinas insisted that international trade would always remain “win-win” if partners played by the rules. “We are not in a trade war,” he said. Trump has until mid-April to decide whether he will move forward, with expectations high that any US action is likely to be challenged by exporting nations in the World Trade Organization. The commission, which handles trade policy for the EU’s 28 member states, however refused to comment on reports that officials had already drawn up specific measures to counter Trump.

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported Tuesday that Brussels was mulling tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorcycle imports as well as bourbon from Tennessee and Kentucky. Washington’s recommended steel and aluminum sanctions address long-standing concerns about mainly Chinese overproduction, but take the extraordinary tack of framing them in terms of national security and defense.

The administration of former President Barack Obama also sought to tackle the subject but emphasized trade talks with China rather than punitive measures. The US proposals could hurt European countries as well as China, which is the world’s largest steel producer but provides less than one percent of US imports and sells only 10 percent of its wrought aluminum abroad.

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