- Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi arrived in Brussels for trade talks on Friday
- Yi called on all countries to oppose ‘trade and investment protectionism’
- He spoke as the EU prepares to slap America with tariffs on ‘iconic’ products after Trump imposed steep taxes on aluminium and steel
- French President Emmanuel Macron has told Trump the tariffs are ‘a mistake’
EU chief Jean Claude Juncker today met the Chinese foreign minister as Brussels prepares retaliation for new US trade tariffs, and Beijing blasts Trump for ‘protectionism’.
The Trump administration yesterday announced a 25% tariff on steel imports 11% tariff on aluminium imports.
The EU has threatened to retaliate with tariffs on ‘symbolic’ US products such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Levis, cranberries and bourbon whiskey.
While many countries share U.S. frustration over Chinese trade and economic practices, critics say Trump risks a global trade war by alienating the European Union, Canada and Mexico with its new tariffs.
Jean Claude Junker and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi today. Yang warned Washington to abide its commitments to avoid a separate US-China trade war after the US announced a 25% tariff on steel imports 11% tariff on aluminium imports
French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured in Paris on Thursday) said he spoke with Trump to warn that the tariffs are illegal and a ‘mistake’, while pledging a ‘firm’ response
Complaints against Beijing include the rampant theft of intellectual property that has helped China become the world’s second-largest economy.
The foreign ministry in Beijing said today: ‘All countries, especially the major economies, should resolutely oppose all forms of trade and investment protection.’
China and the US have threatened to impose tariffs on up to $200 billion worth of each other’s products, with US Treasury secretary Wilbur Ross due in Beijing on Friday for talks aimed at avoiding a trade war.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Friday said the bloc was not in a trade war with anyone but would defend its interests, hours after the US slapped punishing metals tariffs on Europe and other close allies.
‘The European Union is not at war with anyone… the EU is a peace project, including on trade,’ Mogherini said at a joint press conference in Brussels with the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
‘We believe in global free fair trade and we will continue to do so,’ Mogherini told reporters. ‘Having said that, clearly the EU has to defend its interests.’
Meanwhile a spokesman for French President Emmanuel Macron said he spoke with President Trump on Thursday after the tariffs were imposed.
The EU has threatened to retaliate with tariffs on ‘symbolic’ US products such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles, cranberries and bourbon whiskey.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks in Brussels after US tariffs were imposed. EU taxes could come into force from June 20 on an initial list of American products, with a second list taking effect in March 2021 subject to approval by member states
Macron warned Trump that the tariffs are illegal and a ‘mistake’ while pledging a ‘firm’ and ‘proportionate’ response in line with World Trade Organization rules.
He also raised the spectre of a new world war caused by ‘economic nationalism’, saying: ‘This is exactly what happened in the 1930s.’
Britain’s trade minister Francis Maude described the tariffs as ‘stupid’ to the BBC, adding: ‘Any government that embarks on a protectionist path inflicts the most damage on itself.’
Europe has said it will launch a challenge to America’s tariffs at the World Trade Organization as well as taxing $3.3billion of US exports to ‘rebalance’ the books.
This rebalancing could enter force from June 20, with tariffs on a second list of products from March 2021 subject to agreement by Europe’s 28 member states.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also among the first world leaders to hit back at Trump, calling the tariffs ‘an affront’.
‘Let me be clear: These tariffs are totally unacceptable,’ Trudeau said.
‘Canadians have served alongside Americans in two world wars and in Korea. From the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, we have fought and died together.’
The bloc now needs to determine how to deal with the Trump administration, particularly after he opened an investigation into cars and trucks that could lead to similar tariffs as now on metals.
Germany has tended to favour a more conciliatory approach, while others believe, after weeks of metal tariffs talks, that Trump will only respect a hard line.
Germany has more at stake. In 2017, German exports to the United States reached 112billion euros, more than twice that of the next biggest EU country, Britain, and more than triple that of France, according to the Eurostat statistics office.
The steel and aluminium tariffs were imposed as US Treasury secretary Wilbur Ross was due in Beijing for talks over potential tariffs on Chinese products
EU leaders had agreed to offer Washington the prospect of discussions to open their markets wider, with a potential reduction of existing tariffs on industrial products such as cars, and cooperation on energy and regulation.
The proviso was that Trump grant the European Union a permanent exemption to the aluminium and steel tariffs, which he has failed to do.
US Treasury secretary Wilbur Ross is meeting a Chinese delegation in Washington at the weekend and is expected to press China to commit to buying more U.S. agriculture, energy, and other products.
Mogherini said the EU had prepared its counter-measures against the US, including a tit-for-tat threat of duties on a whole range of products including cranberries and bourbon whiskey.
She said the EU will also launch a dispute settlement procedure against the United States at the World Trade Organization, a legal process that could take years.
“This doesn’t mean the United States are not our closest partners and friends. Allies they (will) stay,” she said after a first round of talks with China’s Wang.
“We work very closely with the US on most issues from security .. to international foreign policy issues and this will continue to be the case,” she said.
In a veiled warning, Wang warned Washington to abide its commitments to avoid a separate US-China trade war as a 50-strong US delegation held talks in Beijing.
“We always honour our words and we expect that our partners keep their word as well,” Wang said.
The US delegation is laying the groundwork for a weekend visit by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to finalise a fragile trade truce announced earlier in May.