U.S. Allies Jostle to Win Exemptions From Trump Tariffs
“If you now start making concessions on other things, you give in to blackmail,” said Guntram Wolff, the director of Bruegel, a research organization in Brussels. “I would reject that.”
On Saturday, Cecilia Malmström, the European Union’s trade commissioner, met with the United States trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, in Brussels, after a meeting that also included Japan to talk about steel overcapacity. There was no resolution of the tariffs issue, however.
European Union countries have been compiling a list of American products that could be subject to reciprocal levies. The provisional list correlated strongly with Republican congressional districts and included Harley-Davidson motorcycles, bourbon, rice, kidney beans, sweet corn, tobacco and peanut butter.
The region is likely to face a tough decision, however, about whether to wait for World Trade Organization approval, a lengthy process, or simply to impose the retaliatory sanctions. Cecilia Malmstrom, the European commissioner for trade, said during a news conference in Brussels on Wednesday that any fight back against the United States would be “by the book.”
But even as European Union leaders prepared for retaliatory action, they also recalled the long history of trans-Atlantic bonhomie.
Brigitte Zypries, the German economics minister, wrote in a letter to Wilbur Ross, the United States commerce secretary, that Europe and America should work together to address the real problem: a global glut of steel production that has driven down prices.
“We need trans-Atlantic solidarity on this issue, and not trade conflicts,” she said.
Still, there were signs that attempts by some countries to win tariff immunity from the United States were sowing tension among European allies.