MEPs blast Trump amid ongoing steel tariffs row

MEPs have warned of a looming trade war amid criticism of US President Donald Trump’s plans to impose heavy tariffs on trade in steel and aluminium.

Steel plant | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

14 Mar 2018

Tariffs of 25 per cent are to be placed on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium imported into the US. This represents €5.1bn and €1.1bn of EU exports respectively.   The EU is yet to announce its formal response to the controversial move.

Ska Keller, co-leader of the Greens/EFA group, told a news conference in Parliament she now fears a trade war between the EU and US, saying, “For the US to say that is wants these punishing tariffs for reasons of national security is ridiculous and cannot be accepted.”

“Trump isn’t just threatening trade tariffs, he wants to tear up the entire international order. Whether it is leaving the Paris climate agreement, threatening the Iran nuclear deal, or bypassing the WTO, he is pushing an ‘every man for himself’ agenda that would cause severe pain. In the long term, everyone loses in a trade war and the EU must robustly defend multilateralism, without escalating the conflict.”


EPP group leader Manfred Weber said the EU must be ready to respond to the US move.

Addressing a separate news conference, Weber said that while he “very much regrets the trade barriers and tariffs” it was important to “keep a clear head.”

The German MEP added, “We in the EU are committed to free trade globally. If President Trump wants to build new walls then the EU needs to counter this by building bridges to Mexico and other parts of the world.

He said, “The EU must be exempt from any tariffs. Our main aim is to protect EU jobs so the EU must remain committed to take all necessary measures.

“Of course, the elephant in the room here is China so I hope that Trump and the EU will establish a common position in dealing with China.”

Their comments came ahead of a debate with European trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on Wednesday morning on the issue.

ECR group member Emma McClarkin said, “The UK and the EU are close allies of the United States. We work together to guarantee each other’s security through Nato, the UN Security Council and in many other international forums. 

“The US should recognise this close partnership and grant the UK and the EU the same exemption as their Nafta partners have been given. Tariffs are not the right way to tackle the global oversupply of steel. Instead, a multilateral solution is needed."

President Trump has argued that the tariffs are to protect US jobs.

Irish MEP Matt Carthy told the debate on Wednesday that President Trump “does not care about lower income workers, their jobs, their wages or their rights. We know this from his actions in providing tax breaks for the rich and regular attacks on vital services such as healthcare.”

“But he was elected because he exploited the genuine concerns of many working people in the US, people who haven’t received the benefits of free trade and globalisation. People who have lost their jobs and their faith in politics. Trump’s latest action in imposing trade tariffs must be seen in this context.”

Carthy urged the Commission to rethink its free trade policy and take responsibility for its consequences, saying, “The Commission is playing into Trump’s game. By promoting a dangerous trade agenda through deals such as CETA and Mercosur the EU will increase the alienation and distrust that is already soared in many member states.”

“Any honest observer will attest that this agenda, rather than enriching everyone, is actually exacerbating a race to the bottom on global labour rights and standards. If we want to respond effectively to Trumpism then we need to abandon a trade agenda that will only widen inequalities in Europe and across the globe,” Carthy told fellow MEPs.


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