The College of EU Commissioners endorsed on Wednesday the decision to impose rebalancing duties on the set of US products it had submitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) effective from July, as part of EU response to the steep US tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, the European Commission’s press release said.
The filed complaints came in response to President Donald Trump’s decision announced on Friday to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico while aluminum imports were subject to a 10 percent duty.
US Tariffs Seriously Damaging Ties With European Union
The United States was inevitably inflicting serious damage on its own trade, economy and international relations, threatening the transatlantic relationship by plunging unilaterally into the tariffs conflict, University of Pittsburgh Professor of International Affairs Michael Brenner warned.
"The logic of international commerce is well established and the implications of unilateralism [are] obviously deleterious," he said.
"The complicating factors are these: it is not evident that the Trump people understand these elementary facts of contemporary life; the influence of maverick friends of Trump who speak with him at length by telephone; and President who lacks any rational mind," he said.
Far from helping the US domestic labor force, the tariffs clash and threatened trade war could only hurt them severely, Brenner predicted.
"Workers will lose whatever happens. The only question is how much over what time frame. When the case eventually is adjudicated in the WTO, the US surely will lose," he said.
Brussels was also certain to retaliate in ways that would inflict significant damage on the US economy, Brenner cautioned.
It remained to be seen if Trump was equally determined on a confrontation with Mexico and Canada, partners with the United States in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Washington is now renegotiating or if he would adopt a more pragmatic approach to those nations, Brenner said.
The future of NAFTA "depends on whether the moves signal an emerging hard-line on the trade agenda across the board or Trump will seek a deal to offset the trade war elsewhere," Brenner added.
EU More Likely Than US to Win WTO Dispute on Tariffs
Independent Institute Center for Peace and Freedom Director Ivan Eland agreed that the WTO decision on the tariffs case with the EU was more likely to go against the United States.
"The European Union has a reasonably good chance to win the WTO dispute, because the United States' ‘national security’ rationale for the tariffs is nonsense. Trump is using the ‘national security excuses to thinly disguise raw protectionism," he said.
"It's not just the steel and aluminum exports to the US that may be reduced by tariffs, but the wider damage that may be caused by a broader trade war with the United States. Even the EU's narrow retaliation for US steel and aluminum tariffs will hurt EU consumers… substantially," he said.
Canada and Mexico also stood to lose substantially from the tariffs being impose do n them, Eland added.
"The tariffs could have ill-effects on NAFTA, because they are also directed at Canada and Mexico, the United States' partners in NAFTA. The tariffs are unnecessarily egregious, especially to Canada, which is a large buyer of US steel," he said.
US Workers Expected to Suffer From Tariffs Retaliation
Eland also agreed with Brenner that US industrial workers were far more likely to be hurt than helped by the new tariffs.
"The tariffs on aluminum and steel may help a narrow slice of American workers, but the retaliation of other countries on US products may make a wider slice of US workers unemployed or underemployed," he said.
"Tariffs also hurt the general American economy. Nations' companies and industries only gain efficiency and increased productivity by robust, unfettered competition with the companies and industries of other countries," Eland said.
There has been no weakening of NATO's transatlantic relations despite recent differences between the United States and Europe, the alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.