Europe targets guns, garters and lentils in trade war

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Indy Politics

The transatlantic trade rift over steel erupted into the pantihose and suspender war last night as the European Union drew up an extraordinary list of 325 American products that it may hit with huge tariffs.

The document, being circulated among diplomats, includes items ranging from the prosaic to the comical, as the European Commission deliberately targets industries in states where President George Bush needs political support in the forthcoming congressional elections.

Protesting against levies of up to 30 per cent on steel imported into the US, the European Commission has drawn up a list of products that could face duties of between 8 and 30 per cent if the US fails to compensate the EU for the €2bn which it says the steel tariffs will cost industry.

Pascal Lamy, the man running the EU side of the looming trade war, has identified Harley-Davidson motorbikes and guns for retaliation because they are mostly made from steel. The Florida fruit juice business will be targeted with levies, as well as dried grapefruit and pistachios, kidney beans and even lentils.

But Mr Lamy seems to have lingered longest over the lingerie sector while making his hit list. Corsets, braces, garters and suspenders as well as tights and "brassieres of all types" are included.

The EU is convinced that Mr Bush drew up his steel tariffs for narrow political reasons – protecting endangered industries in key states such as Florida, where he had so much trouble in the presidential election – before the mid-term elections in November.

The European reprisals – €2.5bn worth – are designed to hit Mr Bush where it hurts: in the swing states which are all-important in American politics.