U.S. tariffs on steel-and-aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and Europe are now in effect. On social media, President Donald Trump said Canada has mistreated U.S. farmers, and has been ‘highly restrictive on trade.’
Canada has treated our Agricultural business and Farmers very poorly for a very long period of time. Highly restrictive on Trade! They must open their markets and take down their trade barriers! They report a really high surplus on trade with us. Do Timber & Lumber in U.S.?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2018
Meanwhile, the European Union’s top trade commissioner called Washington’s action ‘illegal.’
CGTN’s Mariam Zaidi reports.
“Unjustified protectionism, pure and simple”
After U.S. President Donald Trump slapped Canada, Mexico and the E.U. with tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, recriminations rang out across the European Union.
“It’s a bad day for world trade. Its totally unacceptable that a country is imposing unilateral measures when it comes to world trade,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
“The history trade teaches us how the protectionism is a negative sum game,” Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament said. “It suits no one and only risks triggering trade wars that are harmful to everyone.”
If Trump has indeed turned the U.S. away from multilateralism, the E.U. was ready to fight back. On Friday, E.U. Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström detailed the bloc’s line of attack.
“The E.U. will today send a request for consultations at the WTO. We have started preps for rebalancing measures in a couple of weeks. And our safeguard investigations and presurveillance of market of steel and aluminium in Europe,” Malmström said.
Europe and China Teaming Up
The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in town on Friday to meet E.U. officials. He had plans for the two sides to push for closer cooperation across a range of issues, including trade.
“We are clearly living times of geopolitical turbulence and uncertainties, so the cooperation between China and European Union becomes even more important.” said E.U. Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini.
It was a possible signal that Trump’s measures were giving the U.S.’s traditional allies an opportunity to push their own cooperation.
“We immediately concluded the free trade agreement with Japan that was pending for years and years. Trump came into office, the Japanese were in town and that deal was concluded,” explained Guntram Wolff, Director of the Bruegel think tank in Brussels. “Think about the discussions with Mercosur, the Latin America trade agreement. Those negotiations have been going on for ages and I think there’s now new dynamism in this discussion with E.U. and Mercosur.”
What’s Next for the E.U.
The E.U. Trade Commissioner also detailed plans to launch legal proceedings against China at the WTO over the intellectual property rights of E.U. companies. The bloc has said its choosing no side, and it will fight any country that doesn’t play by the rules.