President Donald Trump’s maximalist approach in recasting his nation’s trade relations may soon hit U.S. farmers and manufacturers, as America’s trade partners prepare US$3.45 billion of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.
In just the past week, the European Union threatened levies on US$1.6 billion of U.S. goods in response to U.S. tariffs on metal imports; Russia prepared levies on US$537.6 million of goods; Turkey on US$266.6 million; Japan on US$264.3 million; and India on US$165.6 million, according to filings with the World Trade Organization.
Citing national security concerns, the U.S. imposed import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in March, giving regions including the EU, Mexico and Canada temporary exemptions while they negotiate alternate resolutions. While the EU has indicated a willingness to discuss means of resolving global steel overcapacity, European leaders have said they won’t begin negotiations until Trump has provided a permanent exemption on the metals tariffs.
“As a matter of principle, we will talk about everything with a friendly country that respects WTO rules,” French President Emmanuel Macron said immediately after the U.S. tariffs were enacted. “But, by the same principle, we won’t talk about anything while there’s a gun pointed at our head.”
The countries that have filed preliminary complaints with the WTO are seeking to pressure the Trump administration to withdraw the metal duties by specifically targeting U.S. goods that are produced by voters in states that sent Trump to the White House.
Harley-Davidson Inc. and bourbon are both on the list of goods specified by the EU, pressuring Republican speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, who hails from the Wisconsin home of the motorcycle maker, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, from Kentucky, where the whiskey is made.
The EU’s exemption from the metals tariff expires on June 1 and the EU isn’t sanguine on receiving another extension.
“I don’t think the exemptions will be prolonged,” European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Tuesday. “We have to prepare for different scenarios.”
--With assistance from Jonathan Stearns.