EU could work with Turkey, others to take US to WTO court over steel tariffs

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published

U.S. President Donald Trump's latest decision to impose increased import tariffs on steel and aluminum, which demonstrated his protectionist impulses, has been drawing reactions from around the world since it hit the wires on Thursday after his meeting with American industrialists at the White House.

A number of countries said Trump threatened a trade war with a decision to introduce new 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

The European Union would "form a coalition of like-minded countries and potentially take the U.S. to the World Trade Organization (WTO) court together," European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said late Saturday in reference to the WTO's tribunal in Geneva.

These countries could include Turkey, Japan, Canada and Mexico, he added.

Katainen, who handles trade policy for the EU with trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, reportedly told AFP that, "At a time when we have just come out of the most severe economic crisis in decades, nobody should do anything in order to harm the stability we have achieved."

Turkey is the eighth-largest steel producer in the world. The country's exports to the U.S., which stood at around $1.2 billion in 2017 and account for almost 10 percent of Turkey's total steel exports, are said to have been affected by Trump's latest decision.

While the scope of the impact on Turkish steel imports is said to have been relatively limited, the wider results remain to be seen by the U.S. and global industries.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek, who is in charge of the country's economic affairs, said Sunday that Trump's rhetoric of trade wars and latest decision regarding the new steel tariffs have made it clear that the world is on the eve of a global trade war.

Şimşek said the U.S. was taking steps that could initiate a global trade war, adding it was a critical situation for the world economy.

Beijing also warned Sunday that it is ready to hit back at the U.S. if it harms China's economic interests, fueling fears of a trade war after Trump unveiled steel and aluminum tariffs, according to AFP.

"China doesn't want a trade war with the U.S.," Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the National People's Congress, told a news conference Sunday, the eve of the rubber-stamp parliament's annual session. "But if the U.S. takes actions that hurt Chinese interests, China will not sit idly by and will take necessary measures."

Meanwhile, Turkish Steel Exporters' Association (ÇİB) head Namık Ekinci said on Friday that the U.S.'s decision to introduce new 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imports will of course impact Turkey, but it will be relatively limited.

The U.S. will be the most affected by this turmoil," Ekinci said.

Trump has not yet signed the proposals, the former Finnish Prime Minister Katainen said, adding that they hope that he will reconsider his aims.

The EU is drawing up retaliatory measures against leading U.S. brands, such as Levi's and Harley Davidson, after Trump threatened a trade war with plans for tariffs on steel and aluminum, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday.

But a top EU trade official said Trump still has a small chance to avoid a damaging global trade war and asked the U.S .leader to reconsider his aims before he signed them into effect this week.

The threat appeared to fall on deaf ears as Trump on Friday welcomed the prospect of a trade war, remaining defiant in the face of the global uproar sparked by his raft of fresh tariffs.

With global stock markets tumbling and allies riled, the president greeted the negative reaction by raising the stakes and vowing even more sweeping trade attacks in a series of angry tweets.

Among others, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday that the EU will soon unveil a plan for taxing major internet companies like Amazon and Facebook by imposing a levy of two to six percent on revenues in every country where they operate, according to AFP.

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