The European Union’s trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has dismissed president Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on car imports, accusing the Trump administration of using trade “to threaten and intimidate” Europeans”, adding to concerns that the US-European rift could turn into a trade war.
Mr Trump has said the EU must eliminate barriers to its market for American goods,
“Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will be speaking with representatives of the European Union about eliminating the large Tariffs and Barriers they use against the U.S.A.,” Mr Trump tweeted on Monday. “Not fair to our farmers and manufacturers.”
Over the weekend, Mr Trump threatened to place higher levies on European cars if Europe retaliated to his tariff hikes.
He told a rally that the EU countries have banded together “to screw the US on trade.”
But Ms Malmstrom said the EU was no pushover. “We are not afraid, we will stand up to the bullies,” Malmstrom said.
She said trade was being used “as a scapegoat.”
While Mr Trump gave Australia an exemption to the higher tariffs following talks with Malcolm Turnbull over the weekend, talks in Europe were unsuccessful.
Negotiations on Saturday between Malmstrom and her U.S. counterpart Robert Lighthizer failed to reach an agreement with the EU not receiving assurances that it will be exempted from the metal tariffs.
This leaves the EU racing against time to secure an exemption before the aluminium and steel tariffs come into force in less than two weeks.
Asked by reporters to respond to Mr Trump’s threats, Ms Malmstrom said: “It’s hard to argue on Twitter over these issues, but the European Union is a very open market.”
She said the EU imposes a 10 percent levy on US car imports but the US has a 25 per cent levy on trucks and pick-ups, and up to 40 per cent on some clothes.
She said on average, the EU imposes a 3 per cent tariff on U.S. products, while the US has an average tariff of 2.4 per cent.