THE European Union (EU) threatened a trade war with Donald Trump as France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire said he “expects” the EU to be exempt from steel and aluminium tariffs.
By CIARAN MCGRATH
And Mr Le Maire has warned the US President that if no deal was reached, the EU could hit back by slapping 25 percent tariffs of its own on a range of US products, whose annual imports to the EU are worth £2.46billion ($3.45 billion).
The threat came in the midst of a G20 summit meeting in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, at which world financial leaders pushed for an endorsement of free trade, despite the Trump administration insisting they were not prepared to sacrifice US national interests.
Mr Le Maire made his remarks after a meeting with US opposite number, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
He told reporters afterwards: “I’ve been clear with Steve Mnuchin that we are waiting for a full exemption from these new American tariffs for the European Union as a whole.
“I think we should reach that goal. It’s difficult (but) it’s not out of reach.”
At the end of the first day of the summit, Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for economic and financial affairs, warned a trade war jeopardised world economic growth.
He said: “The first risk is the risk of inward looking policies and protectionism.”
His position was backed up by Haruhiko Kuroda, Japan’s central bank governor, who added: “There is a solid understanding among the global community that free trade is important.”
However, Mr Mnuchin said the US had to put its interests first.
One US official told reporters: “There’s no doubt that the secretary represents the president’s very strong view that we believe in free trade.
“But the environment we’re in now, where the expectation is America totally subordinates its national interests in order for the free trade system to work, is just one we don’t accept.
“So, we’ve been very clear, we believe in free trade with reciprocal terms that leads to more balanced trade relationships.”