European Union declares dark day for trade as Trump slaps steel tariffs

Not even the US's closest allies can avoid getting caught in President Donald Trump's escalating trade battles.

Some of the United States's closest allies are baffled and frustrated by President Trump's decision to impose steep tariffs on USA imports of their steel and aluminum, and officials in the European Union, Canada and Mexico are calibrating how hard to hit back. And he said that while he was looking forward to continuing negotiations, the making its decision in the interest of national security - a justification Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has dismissed as absurd.

"We are very concerned that these unjustified unilateral measures put at risk the many industrial clusters, innovation hubs and transatlantic synergies we share with the U.S.", European Aluminum, an organization that advocates for the industry at the the E.U. level, said in a statement. "Canada buys more American steel than any other country in the world, accounting for 50% of United States exports", said Freeland in a statement. "This is protectionism, pure and simple".

On Wednesday, the Trudeau government said it would take additional steps to prevent foreign steel and aluminum from being dumped into the North American market - news that appeared created to try to head off the tariff decision. European Union exports potentially subject to USA duties are worth 6.4 billion euros ($7.5 billion).

Ross told reporters that talks with Canada and Mexico over revising the North American Free Trade Agreement were "taking longer than we had hoped".

The countries are major USA steel and aluminum suppliers and both considered the threat of tariffs to be an irritant at best, an insult at worst.

Trump's tariffs come amid a global glut in steel and aluminum which experts blame on over-production in China.

"Our members could face having to pay double tariffs on some materials necessary to manufacture parts in the United States", said a statement from the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association.

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the president acted on national security grounds, seeing a rising tide of imports as a threat to the domestic metals industry.

The EU - along with Canada and Mexico - are now receiving a temporary exemption which expires Friday.

President Donald Trump intends to impose steep import duties on steel and aluminum imports from Europe starting Friday, after weeks of talks failed to reach a compromise, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Trump imposed the steel and aluminum penalties under a 1962 law that gives the president broad power to increase or reduce tariffs on goods deemed critical to national security.

Thursday's action also is expected to complicate USA efforts to confront China over trade practices that the administration regards as unfair. The U.S. said the exemptions granted Canada and Mexico were linked to the ongoing NAFTA negotiations. European officials argue that tit-for-tat tariffs will hurt growth on both sides of the Atlantic and Canada said before the announcement that it would respond in kind.

"There are still a lot of debates going on in Europe", said Guntram Wolff, director of the Bruegel Institute, a Brussels-based think tank.

The U.S. interprets a threat to national security to be applicable to any threat to American industry, or economy for instance.

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