World Economy

US Tariff Policy Under G7 Fire

The European Union and Canada both filed challenges with the WTO over US’ decision to impose tariffs on some metal imports
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was the prime target of the criticism at the meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors in Canada on Friday.US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was the prime target of the criticism at the meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors in Canada on Friday.

The United States has come under fire from finance ministers at a Group of Seven meeting in Canada over its decision to impose tariffs on some metal imports.

America's closest neighbor has challenged the measures, which it describes as absurd. The EU has said the US is playing a dangerous game and is taking its complaints to the World Trade Organization, Euronews reported.

"We know that in every relationship, in every negotiation, there are times that are more difficult," Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said at the meeting in the Canadian ski resort of Whistler, British Columbia. "I have a strong relationship with (US) Secretary Mnuchin, but I took the opportunity to express strongly our views that what they've done is not productive. We'll continue to do that."

Canada and Mexico are planning to retaliate against the US measures, and the EU has already drawn up a ten-page list of tariffs on US good including Harley Davidson motorcycles and peanut butter.

US President Donald Trump has said that the tariffs will protect steelmakers, which he claims is vital for national security. He also says that US firms face barriers in Europe and other parts of the world.

The tariffs also are complicating US efforts to gain cooperation to challenge China’s trade practices as US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross arrived in Beijing on Saturday for talks aimed at averting a US-China trade war.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, whose country’s steel and aluminum producers have been paying the US metals tariffs since March 23, called the US action “deeply deplorable”. “This doesn’t happen that often at G7 meetings, but it was US against everyone else,” Aso told reporters.

The European Union and Canada both filed challenges with the World Trade Organization.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement that the tariffs were “imposed under a false pretext of safeguarding US national security”.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also said Mnuchin was clearly isolated on the tariff issue, with the group devolved to a “G6 plus one” with the six expressing “total incomprehension” over the destabilizing US move.

“We must find a way to get out of this,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told reporters. “That was said clearly by everyone and I think it was even taken on board” by Mnuchin.

Trump’s Twitter Tirade

Mnuchin, regarded as one of the more moderate trade voices in Trump’s cabinet, said the issue may need to be resolved by G7 leaders at a summit next week in Charlevoix, Quebec, officials attending the meetings said.

The US tariffs of 25% on imports of steel and 10% on aluminum were imposed early on Friday on Canada, Mexico and the European Union after they refused to accept steel and aluminum quotas in negotiations with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Trump took to Twitter again on Friday to castigate Canada after his testy exchange with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday over rocky negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump tweeted that Canada had treated US farmers “very poorly for a very long period of time. Highly restrictive on Trade! They must open their markets and take down their trade barriers! They report a really high surplus on trade with us,” he wrote.

Later on Friday, Trump told reporters that he might prefer separate trade deals with Canada and Mexico instead of a revamped Nafta.

The White House said Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron of the need to “rebalance trade with Europe.”

Trump’s words followed swift responses to the tariffs by Canada, Mexico and the EU, which plan to retaliate with levies on billions of dollars of US goods, including orange juice, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson’s stock dropped about 1% on Friday, while shares of steelmakers US Steel and AK Steel both rose 2.2%. The broader stock market rebounded on strong monthly jobs data.


Canada, the largest supplier of steel to the United States, said it will impose tariffs covering C$16.6 billion ($12.8 billion ) on US imports, including orange juice, steel, aluminum and other products.

Mexico announced “equivalent” measures on a wide range of US farm and industrial products, including, apples, grapes, cheese, steel and other goods.

The EU plans tariffs on US exports running the gamut from canoes to “manicure or pedicure preparations”. “We are determined to protect the multilateral system,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said of the WTO challenge. “We are expecting everybody to play by the rules."

Officials at the G7 meeting said the tariffs made it more difficult for the group to work together to confront China’s trade practices, especially when Beijing, like most G7 members, supports the current WTO-based trade rules and the United States is seeking go around them.

Germany, by far the biggest exporter to the United States, is keen to avoid a wider trade war, especially as the Trump administration has floated the prospect of tariffs on cars, which would potentially be devastating to German exporters.

Other EU countries such as France favor a more robust stance against what they see as American bullying.


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