Friday

18th Jan 2019

EU rejects US trade 'gun to the head'

  • EU trade negotiator Malmstroem is "looking forward" to talk with US counterpart Lighthizer (l) but rejetced "artificial deadlines" (Photo: European Commission)

EU leaders on Friday (23 March) expressed firmness and unity as they have entered a phoney trade war with the US after the bloc was only temporarily exempted from the tariffs on steel and aluminium imposed by president Donald Trump to protect the US industry.

At a summit in Brussels, they said that they "regret" the US decision and insisted that it "cannot be justified on the grounds of national security".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

They called for the exemption - which Trump said would expire on 1 May - to be made "permanent", and said that they "strongly support" the action by the European Commission to "ensure that the interests of the EU are fully protected".

Measures proposed by the commission include taking the US to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and tariffs on a wide range of US products.

Officials and leaders in Brussels were still in the dark on Friday over what exactly Trump would like to talk about in order to prolong the exemptions after 1 May.

But leaders ruled out any bilateral trade negotiation with the US other than to adress the problem of overcapacities on the global steel and aluminium markets and other global trade issues.

Entering such talks would be "a spiral where we would all lose," German chancellor Angela Merkel warned.



French president Emmanuel Macron was more blunt.

"We talk about everything out of principle with a friendly country that respects the rules of the WTO," he said, adding: "We don't talk about anything out of principle with a gun to our head."

Macron said that the EU would be "willing to discuss all issues" if the US abided by the WTO rules, but insisted that the EU would show "no weakness in any sector, towards any country" under the present circumstances.

EU leaders insisted on the need to maintain a dialogue with the US administration, but not within the 1 May deadline imposed by Trump.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker argued that the date was "not realistic, given the broad issues we have to discuss."

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, the bloc's negotiator in the name of the 28 member states, said in a series of tweet that she was "look[ing] forward to pursuing a dialogue with the US", while also rejecting "artificial deadlines."

In Washington earlier this week, Malmstrom agreed with her US counterpart Robert Lighthizer to set up a working group to talk about "issues of common interest". But the format and the issues that would be on the table have not been agreed yet.

"We need to start as soon as possible," an EU source told EUobserver.

Trump keeps EU leaders waiting on tariffs

European leaders postponed their reaction to US announcement that the EU would be exempted from tariffs on steel and aluminium. "The devil is often in the details", said the Belgian PM.

Trump starts countdown to EU trade war

EU sales of steel to US to face 25 percent tariff from 23 March, with Europe to hit back on motorbikes and bourbon in looming trade war.

Opinion

Trump tariffs: Europe - we have a problem

A looming trade war threatens to de-stabilise the Eurozone. Europe urgently needs to push its own agenda. Here are three suggestions.

EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption

EU trade chief said the US will impose tariffs or "other limiting measures" on 1 June, as the EU's offer to start limited trade talks is probably not enough for the protectionist Trump presidency.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us