On 31 May 2018, the European Commission issued a press release reacting to the US measures on steel and aluminum affecting the EU. The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and the Commissioner of Trade Cecilia Malmström both severely criticized the US decision to impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% tariff on aluminum imports, indicating that the tariffs were in violation of WTO rules and that the EU response will be proportionate.
The press release in the Background section stated:
The US measures affect EU exports worth €6.4 billion in 2017. While striving to avoid today’s situation, the EU has been preparing over the last months and stands now ready to react to the US trade restrictions on steel and aluminium in a swift, firm, proportionate and fully WTO-compatible manner.
The EU will launch legal proceedings against the US in the WTO on 1 June. This was decided by the College of Commissioners on 29 May and Member States were consulted on the same day. The US measures are primarily intended to protect the US domestic industry from import competition, clearly at odds with WTO rules. In addition to the WTO dispute settlement we are launching against the US measures, we have also coordinated action in this field with other affected partners.
As regards the US tariff measures, the EU will use the possibility under WTO rules to rebalance the situation by targeting a list of US products with additional duties. The level of tariffs to be applied will reflect the damage caused by the new US trade restrictions on EU products. The list of US products is ready: it was consulted with European stakeholders and supported by Member States. The EU notified its potential rebalancing to the WTO on 18 May and, in line with the Organisation rules, could trigger them 30 days later. The Commission will now in coordination with Member States take a formal decision to proceed with the rebalancing.
The Commission is determined to shield the EU steel and aluminium markets from damage caused by additional imports that might be coming into the EU as a result of the closure of the US market. An investigation towards possible imposition of safeguard measures on steel was launched on 26 March. The Commission has nine months to decide whether safeguard measures would be necessary. This decision could also be taken much earlier in the proceedings, if the investigation confirms the necessity for swift action. The Commission has also put in place a surveillance system for imports of aluminium to be prepared in case action will be required in that sector.
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