In Defense of Free Trade: EU and Japan Team Up Against US Tariffs

Written by | Monday, March 12th, 2018

The European Union and Japan urged the United States to grant them waivers from metal import tariffs, urging Washington to show a “calm-headed behavior” to prevent the situation from escalating into a all-out trade war. US President Donald Trump set import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, to come into force in two weeks. Yet, he granted Canada and Mexico an exemption and kept the possibility of excluding other allies.

Following meetings with US trade envoy Robert Lighthizer in Brussels, EU and Japanese trade officials stressed that negotiations would need to carry on. Europe’s Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that the talks with Mr. Lighthizer were “frank” but admitted that they had not brought clarity on the waiver procedure. Talks are continuing this week. “As a close security and trade partner of the US, the EU must be excluded from the announced measures,” she tweeted.

Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko had similarly expressed Japanese concern to Lighthizer and warned of a major market disruption. “We call for calm-headed behavior,” he said. Mr. Seko did not specify what conditions may allow Japan to evade tariffs and said that Mr. Lighthizer had not brought up the US trade deficit with Japan. “He only explained the schedule and the procedures,” he said. Mr. Seko also confirmed that any Japanese response would be in line with the World Trade Organization rules. “If there is a violation, then we will seek consultations,” he said. “We will look at the impact on Japanese businesses and make a final decision.”

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