President Donald Trump’s move to impose tariff on steel and aluminum imports from Europe has triggered sharp response from the EU, Germany and France. President Trump’s decision to apply the duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum was in response to long-standing European customs duties on U.S. imports.

Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron called the U.S. decision “illegal.” The French President was hysterical in his reaction, claiming, “Economic nationalism leads to war, and that’s exactly what happened in the 1930s.” Going by President Macron’s logic, Hitler and Mussolini were merely fiscal conservatives trying to balance the European trade deficit.

The EU filed a case at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, challenging the U.S. decision.

European hysteria aside, there is nothing unreasonable in asking for a level playing field on trade and tariff. President Trump was forced to slap tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports after the EU repeatedly ignored his plea to end unfair duties on U.S. products.

“We are committed to free trade but it must be fairer. We were hoping for progress during the exemption period – because the issues extend beyond Europe,” the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell said.

The German business newspaper Handelsblatt called out the European hypocrisy. “A leading German think tank says Donald Trump is right that tariffs between the United States and Europe are asymmetrical,” Handelsblatt reported

US President Donald Trump may actually have a point when it comes to unfair taxes on US goods coming into Europe. That is the finding of a new study by a leading German think tank. Where they differ is how to deal with it: The group urges new talks to lower tariffs across the board, instead of engaging in a tit-for-tat escalation in new taxes.

“The EU is by no means the paradise for free traders that it likes to think,” said Gabriel Felbermayr, director of the ifo Center for International Economics, a division of the Munich-based ifo Institute. The European Union actually comes off as the bigger offender when compared to the US, he added. The unweighted average EU customs duty is 5.2 percent, versus the US rate of 3.5 percent, according to ifo’s database.

So when Mr. Trump complains of “massive tariffs” he is not that far off the mark in several cases. And he does complain. “If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on US companies doing business there, we will simply apply a tax on their cars, which freely pour into the US,” the president tweeted earlier this month. “They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!”

Scott Dworkin, MSNBC contributor and founder of an anti-Trump ‘resistance’ group, saw the emerging trans-Atlantic trade conflict as an opportunity to depose an elected U.S. President. “Dear EU, Canada and Mexico — Now would probably be a great time for your political leaders to step up and call on our Congress to #ImpeachTrump.” Dworkin tweeted Wednesday. Canada and Mexico were also hit by similar tariffs on steel and aluminium that came into effect on June 1.

The left-wing UK newspaper The Guardian explained how the EU plans to hurt President Trump politically and influence American electoral politics:

Harley-Davidson and Levi’s jeans, is on an EU list of potential targets for tariffs. The targeting is clearly political: it can hardly be a coincidence that Harley-Davidson, for example, is headquartered in Wisconsin: another state where Republicans have a slim majority and face a tough battle in November’s midterm elections.

Germany’s state-run DW News called President Trump’s decision to raise tariffs on European imports “absurd, dangerous, pointless.” President Trump “has long been known in the business world for his threats and bluster,” the broadcaster commented.

Chancellor Merkel is “on the lookout for advisers” to lead a “trade war,” reported German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche.  The magazine reminded the German readers that “even [George W.] Bush imposed punitive tariffs, and failed,” referring to 30 percent tariffs on European steel and aluminium imposed by President George W. Bush in 2002. President Bush rolled back those import duties in 2003 following an unfavorable WTO ruling.

If Europeans are hoping for a rerun of the 2002 trade conflict, they could be in for a surprise. Going by President Trump’s track record, it will take lot more than a sharply-worded rebuke from the EU or an adversarial WTO ruling to make President Trump rollback his commitment to protect U.S. interests.

Video: the U.S. places tariffs on EU metal imports

[Cover image via YouTube]


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