United States imposes hefty tariffs on steel, aluminium imports from key allies

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The EU on Thursday vowed unity and to retaliate swiftly against the Trump administration's harsh tariffs on steel and aluminium imports as Europe blasted Washington's "America First" protectionism.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto made their commitment in a Thursday phone call, following Trump's decision not to exempt their countries from import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum.

EU members have given broad support to a European Commission plan to set duties on 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) of United States exports if Washington ends tariff exemptions. "I have argued for the European Union and the USA to engage in a positive trans-Atlantic trade agenda, and for the European Union to be fully, permanently and unconditionally exempted from these tariffs". Those negotiations had a Friday deadline.

Brussels will also now trigger a dispute settlement case at the World Trade Organisation, saying the United States is acting against agreed worldwide rules.

Former British trade minister Francis Maude has condemned the United States' decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports as "stupid" and counterproductive.

That hurts the companies and can lead to more expensive consumer prices, economists say.

That's in part because some of the biggest US steel mills are almost 80 years old and they aren't capable of making the specific types of steel that go into high-grade technology and aerospace products. "It's hard to see how the U.S.is going to come out well from this whole exercise".

Will the trade war escalate? The Dow fell about 200 points.

"Mexico deeply deplores and condemns the decision by the United States to impose these tariffs", it said in a statement. Canada pledged to fight back with its own measures.

The EU has threatened tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles and bourbon, measures aimed at the political bases of US Republican legislators.

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EU members have given broad support to a European Commission plan to set duties on €2.8bn ($3.4bn) of USA exports if Washington ends tariff exemptions.

The European Commission, which is negotiating on behalf of the United Kingdom, has been in intensive negotiations with the U.S. in a bid to avoid such a scenario. Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement will continue, he said, but he did not expect an agreement to be finalized before the July 1 presidential election. Trudeau responded that there was no way any Canadian prime minister would sign a NAFTA deal that included a five-year sunset clause, and the visit was scrapped.

"It is totally unacceptable that a country is imposing unilateral measures when it comes to world trade".

The tariffs, set to take effect at midnight, happened to coincide with the Cansec trade show, in which numerous world's largest defence companies descend on Ottawa each year to pitch their wares to government.

Getting rid of the exemptions for Canada and Mexico could also complicate ongoing negotiations on NAFTA. The retaliatory tariffs they've promised make no more sense in narrow economic terms than the USA tariffs they're objecting to.

"We look forward to continued negotiations, both with Canada and Mexico on the one hand, and with the European Commission on the other hand, because there are other issues that we also need to get resolved", US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.

"The U.S. now leaves us with no choice", said Juncker. Mexico and Canada's steel exports to the U.S. account for 26% of all USA steel imports while steel imports from the European Union are considerably lower, but still not entirely insignificant by any means.

A Welsh government spokesman said: "The Secretary of State gave assurances that the United Kingdom government is fully committed to reaching a successful resolution". Despite the pall now cast over the talks, they both expressed commitment to a successful renegotiation of Nafta, Mexico's presidential press office said.

The measures announced on Thursday ended months of uncertainty about possible exemptions, illustrating a hardening of the Trump administration's stance towards trade negotiations.

"This is dumb. Europe, Canada, and Mexico are not China, and you don't treat allies the same way you treat opponents", said Sen.

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