Fri, Jun 22, 2018 - Page 10 News List

US tariffs illegal, EU trade head says


Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, listens as EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom speaks during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

The EU is ready to engage with the US to solve a trade row triggered by its decision to impose tariffs on imports of European metals, EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom said yesterday.

Describing the US’ tariffs as “illegal” and contravening WTO rules, Malmstrom said that there was no choice but to take retaliatory action to protect EU interests and jobs.

“We think it is ridiculous to consider the EU as a threat to US national security,” she told a seminar. “We are always open to talk with the US. The whole EU is based on the idea that we talk.”

The EU is today to begin charging import duties of 25 percent on a range of US products in response to US tariffs put on EU steel and aluminum earlier this month, Malmstrom said.

The US, after imposing punitive tariffs on a number of its top trading partners, this week threatened China with further duties on US$200 billion worth of trade, escalating a conflict that has already drawn retaliatory steps from around the world.

Visiting New Zealand to begin talks on a free-trade agreement, Malmstrom sought its support to stand up for an open, rule-based trade system that she said is under threat from friction between the US and other major economies.

Malmstrom said she was “very worried” about the situation, as it could escalate into a “full trade war” that would disrupt global supply chains and damage the world economy.

She also took a swipe at US President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies, voicing concern that some countries are “acting outside” rules agreed upon jointly at the WTO.

“New Zealand is a friend, an ally. Together we stand up for common values ... of sustainable trade, open trade, transparent trade, and trade that is done in compliance with international rules in the multilateral system,” she told a news conference after meeting New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker.

Despite the frictions with the US, the EU shares its criticism that China has been dumping steel and aluminum goods by subsidizing state-owned companies, Malmstrom said, adding that Beijing’s move was causing “great instability” in global markets.

“We don’t like that. Nobody likes that. We need to address this issue, but just throwing tariffs to the whole world is not the right way to address it,” Malmostrom said.

New Zealand is a strong advocate of free trade and pushed hard with Japan to renegotiate the now-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership after Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the original deal.

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