USA imposes steel, aluminum tariffs on EU, Canada, Mexico

President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the tariffs in March as part of an effort to protect U.S. industry and workers from what he described as unfair global competition.

During a speech in Brussels, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, promised to announce retaliatory sanctions later on Thursday. "The European Commission now needs to put in place protection measures on a provisional basis without delay".

Canada has today announced retaliatory surcharges responding to US tariffs imposed today on Canadian steel and aluminum.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, whom Ross was scheduled to meet in Paris on Thursday morning, said on Wednesday that the European Union did not want a trade war either but would respond if Washington imposed tariffs.

Officials from the three trading partners - among Washington's closest allies for decades - have dismissed the idea that their shipments to American customers endanger the United States - and some prominent Republicans attacked it as wrongheaded.

European leaders have declared a "bad day for world trade" after the U.S. announced it will impose tariffs on metal imports from the EU.

The organisation's director Gareth Stace said: "US steel consumers are already reporting price increases and supply chain disruption and with $500m of steel exported from the United Kingdom to the USA past year, United Kingdom steel producers are going to be hit hard".

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The tariffs, which have prompted several challenges at the WTO, are aimed at allowing the USA steel and aluminium industries to increase their capacity utilization rates above 80 percent for the first time in years.

Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, broke the news on a call with reporters Thursday morning. According to the Dutch bank ING, exports of steel and aluminium to the U.S. make up just 0.3% of worldwide goods exports from the European Union and represent a tiny 0.05% of the bloc's GDP.

The E.U. has promised to meet the American tariffs with retaliatory duties on a wide range of US exports from politically sensitive regions - including bourbon made in Mitch McConnell's Kentucky and Harley-Davidson motorcycles manufactured in Paul Ryan's Wisconsin. Canada and Mexico also rejected the White House's suggestion of linking tariff relief to the outcome of ongoing talks to revamp NAFTA. U.S. Steel (X) rose 3.6%, Steel Dynamics (STLD) pulled back to a 0.6% gain. Tariffs will remain on imports from Japan.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada plans to levy tariff "countermeasures" of its own on up to $16.6 billion worth of imports of steel, aluminum and other products from the U.S. "We will respond appropriately".

"We want to be exempt from these tariffs" which were "not compatible" with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, Merkel told a press conference with Portuguese premier Antonio Costa in Lisbon.

He said the tariffs will in the long run increase the cost of global beer production but have a disproportionate impact on American brewers and jobs.

The bloc's response will be "united and firm", French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned.

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