European Union declares dark day for trade as Trump slaps steel tariffs

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross leaves his hotel in Beijing

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross leaves his hotel in Beijing

The next question would be: how will the (US) President (Donald Trump) react? The administration's plans could change if the two sides are able to reach a last-minute agreement, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Ross also said the European Union was unwilling to speak about renegotiating trade deals until the Trump administration threatened them with tariffs.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said the bloc would move ahead with tariffs that are expected to affect roughly $7.5 billion worth of USA exports. "This is protectionism, pure and simple".

The expansion builds on new funding announced in late April of an initial outlay of more than $30 million over five years to hire 40 new officers to investigate trade-related complaints, including those linked to steel and aluminum.

The tariffs were introduced by the US President in response to the markets being flooded by cheap Chinese steel which has endangered the competitiveness of the industry in the West.

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But the pressing ahead nonetheless, a long-threatened tactic sure to cast a pall over the G7 summit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hosting next week in Quebec.

The tariffs will go into effect on the trio of countries at midnight.

"Canada considers it frankly absurd that we would in any way be considered to be a national security threat to the United States", Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said before the tariffs were announced.

US President Donald Trump announced in March that he would slap a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% tariff on imported aluminium, citing national security interests.

"Throughout these talks, the United States has sought to use the threat of trade restrictions as leverage to obtain concessions from the EU", Malmstrom continued in a statement.

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Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, broke the news on a call with reporters Thursday morning.

Trump imposed the steel and aluminum penalties under a 1962 law that gives the president broad power to increase or reduce tariffs on goods deemed critical to national security. In the case of Canada and Mexico, the USA had hoped to address its national security concerns in the context of ongoing efforts to renegotiate NAFTA, but those talks have taken longer than expected and there is now no precise end date in sight, Ross said.

Ross downplayed the threats of retaliation from those countries, but said talks could continue even amid the dispute to try to find a solution. South Korea has not negotiated an exemption for its aluminum exports. Given the delicate nature of these issues, which have vast implications for Mexico and Canada's economies, Trump's saber rattling may hurt more than help according to Alden.

"There are still a lot of debates going on in Europe", said Guntram Wolff, director of the Bruegel Institute, a Brussels-based think tank.

Last week, The Trump administration announced an investigation into whether automobile imports are hurting U.S. national security, laying the groundwork for another trade fight.

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