20:17 GMT02 July 2020
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    Washington’s decision to ramp up tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union has cost European producers billions in lost revenue and exacerbated US-EU tensions.

    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has urged the European Union to stand up for its interests in the face of sanctions and excessive tariffs imposed on its partners by Washington.

    “We should not sit like a rabbit in the headlights in the face of [US] economic sanctions and tariffs. We must protect our own interests. It is not only the 80 million Germans we are talking about, it is Europe and the 500 million people living there,” Maas said in an interview with the newspaper Bild published on Sunday.

    “It leaves me wondering when Trump lumps Europe together with Russia and China and calls them all enemies of the US,” he noted.

    He added, however, that it would be “a mistake to equate Trump with the rest of the United States.”

    “America is more than just tweets coming out of the White House,” he said.

    In March, Washington imposed import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, effectively placing a tax on every foreign shipment of those metals into the United States.

    Although the US initially postponed their imposition on close trading partners Canada, the European Union and Mexico, on June 1, 2018 the tariffs went into effect.

    The tariffs angered Washington’s trading partners, who retaliated by slapping similar levies on imported US goods.

    On May 8, President Donald Trump said he was withdrawing the US from the nuclear agreement with Tehran and promised to impose the “highest level” of sanctions on the country’s energy, petrochemical and financial sectors despite objections from Europe as well as Russia and China who have repeatedly defended the deal.

    He also threatened to punish foreign companies that continue doing business with Tehran.

    The first wave of US sanctions targeting Iranian exports, the country's financial system and its ability to access the global financial system, took effect at midnight on Tuesday.

    READ MORE: EU-US Showdown Over Iran Sanctions a ‘Trainwreck in the Making'

    A second wave of sanctions to target Iran’s energy sector is scheduled to come on November 4.

    Brussels, for its part, has pledged to protect the interests of European companies that could suffer as a result of Washington’s sanctions.


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