US auto tariffs would breach WTO rules: EU

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Brussels, May 24 (IANS) The EU said any unilateral US auto tariffs based on national security would be against World Trade Organization rules after President Donald Trump launched a probe into American vehicle imports, raising the stakes for the bloc as it bids for waivers from White House levies on steel and aluminum.

Trump has demanded a reduction in the EU’s 10 per cent tariff on American car exports and repeatedly threatened to impose levies on European auto imports if the bloc retaliates against US steel and aluminium tariffs, Efe news reported.

“It is very difficult to asses what does it mean or what is behind this,” European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said in Brussels on Thursday.

The commission — the EU’s executive arm — has been negotiating with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to secure an exemption from US tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium since Trump’s decision in early March.

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The bloc received temporary waivers, expiring June 1, but has struggled to convince the White House not to punish its longstanding European allies.

Brussels has engaged Washington and promised to enter into duty-slashing trade talks in exchange for unlimited waivers.

Meanwhile, the bloc also prepared a list of American products that could swiftly face 2.8 billion euros of levies unless Trump exempts the EU, and asked to join China’s WTO challenge against US tariffs, which were also based on national security and deemed illegal by Beijing and Brussels alike.

“Whether the new announcement further complicates the trade negotiations or not, we don’t know,” Katainen said, adding that the EU doesn’t expect additional hardships in the wake of Trump’s autos announcement.

“We have indicated very clearly to our US friends that we are always ready to discuss improving the trading environment, as we have been trying to do for many years.”

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–IANS

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