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EU leaders call for unity in face of new US tariffs

This March 22, 2018 file photo shows (From R) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron meeting on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Brussels. (AFP photo)

The leaders of France, Germany and Britain have called for readiness in the European Union to react to the imposition of trade tariffs by the United States on the import of steel and aluminum from the bloc.

France's presidency said Sunday that the leaders of the three main European powerhouses agreed in telephone talks earlier in the day on the need for unity among members of the EU to counter tariffs imposed by the US.

“The EU must be ready to react, if necessary, with efficiency and speed,” a statement from the Elysee Palace said following the phone calls between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May.

The statement said the three discussed in length the potential impact of new US tariffs on the EU’s economy as well US plans to withdraw from a major agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

It said Macron, Merkel and May expressed hope during the calls that the administration of US President Donald Trump would revise its plans to further adopt measures that the three said were “contrary to transatlantic interests”.

Trump imposed the tariffs on steel and aluminum last month on the grounds that US producers crucial to military preparedness were being undermined by cheap imports. The decree temporarily exempted countries that have been main suppliers to the US market. Some sources close to Trump have hinted that the US president could make some concessions to the EU countries as his tariffs policy mainly seeks to target overproduction in China.  

EU countries have warned, however, that they could also impose their own tariffs on US-made goods in case the US decides to permanently impose steel and aluminum tariffs on EU products.

Macron and Merkel visited Washington last week but failed to receive assurances from Trump that he may exempt the Europeans from the controversial trade tariffs.

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