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Trade

The EU will fight a US trade war by targeting bourbon, blue jeans, Harley-Davidson bikes and steel in US$3.3 billion counter-action

The EU is set to target iconic US exports such as Harley-Davidson bikes and bourbon whiskey if America imposes aluminium and steel tariffs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2018, 2:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 3:57am

From blue jeans to motorbikes and whiskey, the EU’s trade war hit list – which is expected to come into play if the US follows through on its commitment to impose tariffs on the economic bloc at midnight in Washington on Thursday – reads like a catalogue of emblematic American exports.

The European Union drew up the list in March but pledged not to activate it unless US President Donald Trump followed through on his threat to impose 25 per cent tariffs on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium – which he confirmed he would do on Thursday morning.

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The list does not specifically name brands but European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker spelt out in March that the bloc was “preparing import duties for US products including Harley-Davidson, Bourbon and Levi’s jeans.”

The EU sent the list to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on May 18, in anticipation of Washington’s decision to go through with the tariffs. The measures could be ready to unleash 30 days after that date.

The EU estimates the US tariffs would cost the bloc around 2.8 billion euros (US$3.27 billion) and its counter measures aim to penalise imports from the United States to the same value, while also generating political pressure on Trump at home from industries whose exports would be hit.

Here are some highlights from the EU’s list, which are subject to change based on the final US tariff decision.

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Steel

Dozens of steel products are targeted, including bars and rods, rolled steel, stainless steel, wire, tubes, chain, pipes and scaffolding, as well as kitchen appliances, ovens, ladders and washbasins.

Clothing and fabrics

Clothing includes “trousers and breeches of cotton denim” – better known as jeans – along with bedlinen and men’s leather footwear. Swimwear and underwear are excluded.

Cosmetics

Eye make-up and lipstick are listed, as together they accounted for more than 280 million euros worth of EU imports from the US in 2017.

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Transport

Motorbikes and mopeds “with reciprocating internal combustion piston engines” of 500cc capacity and above includes most Harley-Davidson models. Boats, yachts, canoes and rowing boats are also on the list.

Food and drink

Maize, rice, cranberries, cranberry juice, orange juice, sweetcorn and peanut butter are among the food products targeted.

The list also covers bourbon whiskey – the EU imported some 415 million euros worth from the US in 2017, along with another 150 million euros worth of whiskey without the “bourbon” designation.

Other items

Cigarettes, cigars, cheroots (a type of thin cigar) and other types of tobacco are there.

A further list containing safety glass, mirrors and drinking glasses and playing cards is only provisional for now and may be used at a later date.