Sat, Jun 23, 2018 - Page 1 News List

EU slaps tariffs on iconic US products

AFP, BRUSSELS

Harley-Davidsons are pictured near the Milwaukee Museum of Art on the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Aug. 28, 2003. The EU has introduced retaliatory tariffs on US goods including popular items such as bourbon whiskey, peanut butter, sweet corn and orange juice.

Photo: EPA

The EU yesterday slapped revenge tariffs on iconic US products, including bourbon, jeans and motorcycles, in its opening salvo in a trade war with US President Donald Trump.

The tariffs, which took effect at midnight according to the EU’s official journal, further fueled jitters on world stock markets that are already alarmed by trade tensions between the US and China.

Customs agents across Europe’s colossal market of 500 million people are to now impose the duties, raising prices of US-made products in supermarkets and across factory floors.

“These measures are the logical consequence of the US decision,” French Minister of the Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire said. “They reflect a Europe that is resolute and principled.”

Brussels imposed the raft of duties on 2.8 billion euros (US$3.3 billion) of US products in a tit-for-tat response to Trump’s decision to slap stiff tariffs on European steel and aluminum exports.

Global markets yesterday took the development in their stride, with stocks in Europe firm after weeks of instability on trade worries.

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom said this week that the EU was “left with no other choice” but to impose tariffs of its own after the “unilateral and unjustified decision of the US.”

Together with US tariffs against Mexico and Canada, the trade battles have raised the specter of a global trade war, spooking financial markets that fear major consequences to the global economy.

“We have a trade war — and it’s an escalating trade war,” SEB chief economist Robert Bergqvist said in an interview.

Brussels first drew up the list in March when Trump initially floated the 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, which also target Canada, Mexico and other close allies.

The list does not specifically name brands, but European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in March said that the bloc would target “Harley-Davidson, bourbon and Levi’s jeans.”

Cranberries, cranberry juice, orange juice, sweetcorn and peanut butter are among the other food products targeted.

Juncker on Thursday said that the US decision to impose tariffs “goes against all logic and history.”

“Our response must be clear, but measured. We will do what we have to do to rebalance and safeguard,” he said.

European consumers would be able to find “alternatives,” European Commissioner for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen said.

“If we chose products like Harley-Davidson, peanut butter and bourbon, it’s because there are alternatives on the market. We don’t want to do anything that would harm consumers,” Katainen said on Thursday. “What’s more, these products will have a strong symbolic political impact.”

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde on Thursday said that a trade war, as well as Brexit, were the key risks to the eurozone economy.

While she did not see a serious “direct impact of tariff increases ... it’s a trend that is worrying, the breach of confidence that undermines confidence,” she said on the sidelines of eurozone ministerial talks in Luxembourg.

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