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European Union

Europe warns of trade war with US after Donald Trump makes veiled threat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 January, 2018, 12:26am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 January, 2018, 12:56am

The European Union has vowed rapid retaliation against any US curbs on imports from Europe after US President donald Trump raised the spectre of a transatlantic trade war over the weekend.

The EU fired the shot across the US’s bow after Trump said in an interview with UK television station ITV that he has “a lot of problems with the European Union.” This “may morph into something very big” from “a trade standpoint,” he said.

The alert by the European Commission also follows Trump’s decision last week to impose tariffs on US imports of solar panels and washing machines on the basis of rarely used “safeguard” rules.

It also comes amid a continuing threat by Washington to curb American purchases of foreign steel and aluminium on national-security grounds.

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“The European Union stands ready to react swiftly and appropriately in case our exports are affected by any restrictive trade measures from the United States,” Margaritis Schinas, chief spokesman of the commission, the 28-nation EU’s executive arm, told reporters on Monday in Brussels.

He declined to elaborate, saying his “point is better understood if I don’t.”

The EU is seeking to keep markets open worldwide in the face of Trump’s anti-globalisation stance and to underscore the bloc’s continuing commercial clout as the UK prepares to leave in March 2019.

The EU recently struck free-trade pacts with Canada and Japan, is pushing to wrap up a deal with Latin America and is gearing up for talks with Australia and New Zealand.

Last Thursday, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the Trump administration has left the world perplexed by withdrawing from global affairs and has given the EU more scope to act.

“Many countries are puzzled a little bit about the lack of leadership from the United States,” Malmstrom said.

“They are disengaging from the global scene; that leaves a place open for the European Union to show that we can do good trade agreements.”

In his comments on Monday, Schinas said the EU is committed to the multilateral economic order in place since the end of the second world war and underpinned by the World Trade Organisation.

“Trade can and should be win-win,” he said. “While trade has to be open and fair, it has also to be rules-based.”