Europe has brought forward its response to President Donald Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, the European Commission said Wednesday, and will impose its own "tit-for-tat" levies by the end of the week.
The EU will begin charging a 25% tariff on €2.8 billion ($3.3 billion) worth of U.S. goods as of Friday, the commission said, following through on EC President Jean-Claude Junker's threat to reply with tariffs on American imports, including Levi's jeans and Harley Davidson (HOG) - Get Report motorcycles, in the ever-escalating trade war between Washington and Brussels. A further €3.6 billion in goods could be hit with tariffs if an ongoing WTO dispute settled in the EU's favor, the Commission added. U.S. tariffs, which apply to around $7.5 billion in imported steel and aluminium products, kicked in on June 1 as part of package first unveiled on March 23 but delayed for exemptions for certain trade partners, including the European Union.
"We did not want to be in this position. However, the unilateral and unjustified decision of the US to impose steel and aluminium tariffs on the EU means that we are left with no other choice." Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström. "The rules of international trade, which we have developed over the years hand in hand with our American partners, cannot be violated without a reaction from our side. Our response is measured, proportionate and fully in line with WTO rules. Needless to say, if the US removes its tariffs, our measures will also be removed."
The average EU tariff on U.S. goods imported into the bloc is 3%, according to Export.gov data, although non-EU automobiles are subject to a 29% tariff when brought into the bloc, of which 19% is a value-added tax and 10% is a tariff based on current World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Cars imported into the United States from countries that don't have existing pacts with Washington are subject to a 12.5% levy, while pickup trucks are subject to a 25% tariff.
That said, some of the largest production facilities of Europe's biggest carmarkers are located in the United States, with plants in Vance, Al. and Spartanburg, S.C. and Chattanooga, Tn., that assemble around a third of the German cars sold domestically.
The European reply followed yesterday's threat by President Trump to unleash a fresh round of tariffs on as much as $450 billion worth of goods from China in the latest escalation of trade war rhetoric between the world's two biggest economies.
Trump said the 10% levy would apply "after the legal process is complete" if China "refuses to change its practices, and also if it insists on going forward with the new tariffs that it has recently announced", a reference to Beijing's intent to match a list of $50 billion worth of goods now subject to tariffs from Washington. China called Trump's latest salvo "blackmail" and said trade wars would harm "not just the people of China and the U.S. but all over the world."