European Union regrets fresh wave of US tariffs, looks to Biden - GulfToday

European Union regrets fresh wave of US tariffs, looks to Biden


People shop at a Sainsbury’s supermarket amid the coronavirus outbreak in London on Tuesday. Reuters

The European Union regretted a new wave of US tariffs on French and German products that came into force on Tuesday and said it would seek a trade truce with the incoming Biden administration.

The tariffs are yet another chapter in a 16-year spat over subsidies for aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing that turned increasingly sour under US President Donald Trump.

French exporters were hit with hiked tariffs, while Germany saw new levies on aeronautic parts.

“The Commission takes note of Tuesday’s entry into force of US tariffs arising from the WTO Airbus case on aircraft subsidies,” a statement said.

The EU executive handles trade matters for the bloc’s 27 member states.

“As we have made clear before, we regret that the United States chose to add further EU products to its retaliation list,” it said.

The EU is “looking forward to engage constructively with the new US administration to resolve this long lasting dispute as part of a renewed transatlantic agenda”, it added.

French wine and sprits exporters believe the new tariffs will cost the sector one billion euros in sales, with the cognac business especially punished. In its last days in office, the Trump administration is blowing hot and cold on trade issues with the Europeans.

Washington last week suspended a plan to impose new tariffs on $1.3 billion in French products in a dispute over a digital services tax.

Meanwhile, steel industry and union groups on Monday urged President-elect Joe Biden to keep in place the 25% national security tariffs on steel imports imposed in 2018 by his predecessor, arguing they are essential to ensure the viability of domestic steel production.

In a letter to Biden, the American Iron and Steel Institute, the Steel Manufacturers Association, the United Steelworkers union, the Committee on Pipe and Tube Imports and the American Institute of Steel Construction said that the industry was starting to recover from COVID-19 shutdowns but remains “very vulnerable” to new surges in imports.

The groups said that excess global steelmaking capacity, already 700 million tonnes above demand, was expected to grow further as China, Vietnam, Turkey and other countries add production. Steel exports from South Korea, Russia, Ukraine and Indonesia also continue to increase, the groups said.

“Continuation of the tariffs and quotas is essential to ensuring the viability of the domestic steel industry in the face of this massive and growing excess steel capacity,” they said in the letter “Removing or weakening of these measures before major steel producing countries eliminate their overcapacity -- and the subsidies and other trade-distorting policies that have fueled the steel crisis -- will only invite a new surge in imports with devastating effects to domestic steel producers and their workers.”

Democrat Biden told the United Steelworkers last May that he would keep Republican President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs in place until a global solution to excess production capacity can be negotiated. Since then, he has said he will not make any changes to tariffs until after he consults with U.S. allies.

Trump’s Commerce Department imposed the Section 232 metals tariffs -- 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum -- in March 2018. According to data from the American Iron and Steel Institute, the tariffs have reduced the market share of imported steel to about 18% in 2020 from nearly 30% in 2017. (Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Outgoing US President Donald Trump’s trade chief on Monday urged President-elect Joe Biden to maintain tariffs imposed on China, arguing that they have shifted the balance of power in Washington’s favor.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer defended the Trump administration’s tactics of slapping tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods starting in 2018.

“We changed the way people think about China,” said Lighthizer, architect of the tariff policy that he argues benefited American workers, even though some economists disagree.

“We transformed the way people think about trade, and we transformed the way the models are... My hope is that that will continue,” he said.

Lighthizer warned against a return in Washington to the policies of the 1990s, which he said focused too much on dialogue with Beijing that “did nothing. All of them were just a waste of time.”

Trump campaigned on closing the yawning US trade deficit with China, condemning Beijing’s “unfair” trade practices and subsidies, and accusing the country of forcing foreign firms to hand over their technologies in order to do business there.

The ensuing trade battle shook global markets, created uncertainty and reduced trade between the world’s two largest economies.

Facing $370 billion in additional customs duties created by the tariffs, China signed an agreement early last year that obligated it to buy an additional $200 billion in US goods and services, open its financial markets and ease pressure on US companies.

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