Europe expects to be hit by US tariffs on steel and aluminum


PARIS (AP) — Europe is bracing for the United States to announce restrictions as early as Thursday on imported steel and aluminum, a move that could provoke retaliatory tariffs and inflame trade tensions.

Top European officials held last-ditch talks in Paris with American trade officials to try to avert U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. But they did not sound optimistic.

“Realistically, I do not think we can hope” to avoid either U.S. tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminum, said Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union’s trade commissioner.

The United States in March announced tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. But it granted an exemption to the EU and other U.S. allies; that reprieve expires Friday.

Even if the U.S. were to agree to waive the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, Malmstrom said, “I expect them nonetheless to want to impose some sort of cap on EU exports.”

European officials said they expect the United States to announce its final decision Thursday. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer attended meetings at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris that were planned to continue Thursday.

The U.S. plan has raised the threat of retaliation from Europe and fears of a global trade war — a prospect that is already weighing on investor confidence and could hinder the global economic upturn.

“Unilateral responses and threats over trade war will solve nothing of the serious imbalances in the world trade. Nothing,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in an impassioned speech at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.

In a clear reference to U.S. President Donald Trump, Macron added: “These solutions might bring symbolic satisfaction in the short term ... One can think about making voters happy by saying: I have a victory, I’ll change the rules, you’ll see.”

But he said that those “who waged bilateral trade wars ... saw an increase in prices and an increase in unemployment.”

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