EU to accelerate trade deal with Mexico and other countries in response to Donald Trump tariffs

US president has pledged an 'America First' trade policy that looks likely to hit the EU

Jon Stone
Tuesday 20 March 2018 19:47
Donald Trump signs order imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium

EU leaders are to call for their trade negotiators to speed up free trade agreements with Mexico, South America, Japan and Singapore in response to Donald Trump’s “America First” tariffs on steel and aluminium.

A senior EU official speaking ahead of a European Council meeting later this week said that as the “biggest trading partner we believe that the EU should behave in this trade dispute more responsible and more reasonable than our US partners”.

The EU’s 28 leaders are to meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to discuss the response to Mr Trump’s new protectionist policies, in addition to other subjects such as Brexit and Russia.

“The response of the EU to trade disputes should be more trade deals with all the partners which are willing to engage with us,” the senior EU official said.

“It is in that context that the European Council will appeal to speed up work on a trade deal with Japan, Singapore, Mercosur, and Mexico.”

The European Commission is responsible for negotiating trade deals for the bloc but it takes its orders from the European Council, the regular gathering of the bloc’s leaders.

Cecilia Malmström, the EU’s trade Commissioner, is currently travelling to Washington DC to meet with US trade officials to discuss Mr Trump’s policy and whether an exemption can be made for EU goods.

The senior EU official said the European Council would support the Commission’s approach.

The European Commission is responsible for negotiating EU trade deals (REUTERS)

The spectre of a transatlantic trade war was raised in recent weeks after Mr Trump announced he would impose a 25 per cent tariff on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium imports.

The European Commission immediately said it would hit back with tariffs of its own on EU goods including motorbikes, whiskey and clothing.

Mr Trump has previously said the EU has treated the US unfairly on trade issues. After announcing the tariffs he said trade wars were “good, and easy to win”.

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, last week called out “transatlantic bickering” by Donald Trump over Russia.

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