U.S. implements import duties on EU steel; unwise, regrettable says Dutch gov't

Donald Trump
Donald Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

The United States implemented import duties on steel and aluminum from the European Union, Mexico and Canada. From 6:00 a.m. on Friday, Dutch time, a rate of 25 percent applies for steel and 10 percent for aluminum from these countries. The Dutch government called the decision unwise and regrettable, NOS and NU.nl report.

According to American Trade Minister Wilbur Ross, these import duties are necessary because the national security of the United States is at stake. Donald Trump said on Twitter: "Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!"

Over the past months EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom unsuccessfully tried to stave off this measure by the Trump government. "We've done everything we could to avoid this outcome", she said, according to NU.nl. Trump wanted to get concessions from the EU under threat of trade restrictions. "That's not how we do business."

Mexico and the EU responded to this measure immediately. Mexico is going to raise tariffs on apples, grapes and steel. The European Union targets Harley-Davidsons, Bourbon and American jeans. With tariffs on these products, the EU and Mexico are aiming at states where many Trump supporters live, according to NOS. Which means that these tariffs are not only economic countermeasures, but also a political blow - hit Trump where it hurts.

The Dutch government called America's decision unwise and regrettable. "This is a very bad outcome. As EU we extended a hand towards the U.S. Unfortunately this was not taken", Minister Sigrid Kaag of Foreign Trade said, according to NU.nl. She supports the countermeasures the EU announced. With other EU Member States, the Netherlands is now looking at possible further steps. "It is very important to operate thoughtfully and carefully", Kaag said. She emphasized that international trade rules and a level playing field are very important, just like a good relationship with an ally like the U.S. 

Kaag is in consultation with the Dutch steel and aluminum sector. They are discussing how to best respond to trade barriers. She will visit Tata Steel in IJmuiden soon.

Exactly why Trump pushed through with these import duties, despite knowing for months that the EU will respond with countermeasures, is unclear. According to NOS, the fact that the national security of the U.S. is at stake seems far fetched, but this argument is necessary to be able to implement these tariffs. Under the rules of the World Trade Organization, you can only set tariffs under certain conditions, one of which is for national security. 

On Thursday Minister Ross spoke about the real reason behind these import duties, NOS reports. According to him, America is dissatisfied with the ongoing trade negotiations with the affected countries. The NAFTA agreement between Mexico, Canada and the U.S is currently being renegotiated, and new trade agreements between the EU and U.S. are also being discussed. 

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