A senior official in the European Union has warned that the 28-nation bloc will retaliate if US President Donald Trump takes trade measures to restrict European imports into the US.
"If European exporters have to pay tariffs, that will become a two-way street. Then US exporters will have to pay tariffs here," EU budget commissioner Guenther Oettinger told Sunday's edition of Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
"Anyone who uses the instrument must know that we also have it. And the European market is at least as big as the American one," Oettinger said.
Last week, Trump expressed his annoyance with EU trade policy, saying that it "may morph into something very big."
In an interview with Britain’s ITV network during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump described EU trade policies toward the US as "very, very unfair.”
“They’re not the only one, by the way. I could name many countries and places that do. But the European Union has been very, very unfair to the US. And I think it will turn out to be very much to their detriment,” he added.
"We cannot get our product in. It's very, very tough. And yet they send their product to use -- no taxes, very little taxes. It's very unfair.”
In response, the EU said it stands ready to hit back "swiftly and appropriately" if Trump imposes unfair trade measures.
Trump’s comments about the EU come days after he imposed steep tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines, a move aimed mainly at curbing imports from Asia. They were the first of what administration officials said would be a series of trade-enforcement actions in the coming months.
Trump has repeatedly blamed unfair trade deals and abusive practices for the massive US trade deficit and the loss of high paying factory jobs.
The US runs a substantial trade deficit with the EU, importing over $93 billion more in goods and services than it exported to EU members in 2016, according to the US Department of Commerce. Germany itself accounted for more than two-thirds of the deficit.
The deficit with China stood at nearly $310 billion in 2016, with imports from Japan and Mexico also exceeding US exports, by $57 billion and $63 billion, respectively.