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EU, Canada, Mexico promise to punish US over steel, aluminum import tariffs

The European Union, Britain, Canada and Mexico have promised to swiftly retaliate US President Donald Trump’s decision to slap 25-percent and 10-percent import taxes on their steel and aluminum respectively.

Wilbur Ross, the US secretary of commerce, sent shudders through global financial markets on Thursday by announcing that the new tariffs would go into effect from midnight.

EU to target $7.5bn in US goods in tit-for-tat

Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, said the bloc was prepared for immediate punitive measures, including tit-for-tat tariffs that would affect some $7.5 billion worth of US exports.

“This is protectionism, pure and simple,” he said in a statement.

Macron’s WWII analogy

French President Emmanuel Macron called the decision “illegal” and a “mistake,” and said he would discuss it with Trump immediately.

In a rather ominous statement, he likened the measure to the kind of protectionist policies that some governments were making in the pre-World War Two era.

“Economic nationalism leads to war. This is exactly what happened in the 1930s,” he warned.

Canada to put tariffs on $12.8bn in US imports

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the decision was an “affront” to the long-running security ties between his country and the US.

“These tariffs are an affront to the longstanding security partnership between Canada and the United States and, in particular, an affront to the thousands of Canadians who have fought and died alongside their American brothers in arms,” Trudeau said.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, said her country had decided to hit back by placing similar 25-percent and 10-percent tariffs on American products, including steel and aluminum.

The plan, she noted, was expected to affect around $12.8 billion, roughly the same value of the total steel and aluminum that Canada exported to the US in 2017.

Canada and Mexico are among the major providers of steel to the US, which is the world’s largest steel importer. The country’s total steel imports surpassed $29 billion last year.

Mexico said later in the day that it would also impose comparable tariffs on a range of US goods, including lamps, pork, fruit, cheese and flat steel.

The move by the Trump administration could complicate ongoing negotiations between the US, Canada and Mexico on changing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

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