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EU to start imposing tariffs on US imports from Friday

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom addresses a press conference on the US restrictions on steel and aluminum affecting the European Union at the European Commission in Brussels on June 1, 2018. (AFP photo)

The European Union will officially begin imposing tariffs on a range of American products from Friday, a move meant to be in retaliation for Washington’s controversial metal tariffs.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said on Wednesday that tariffs that had been adopted earlier this month on 2.8 billion euros' ($3.2 billion) worth of American goods will become operational as of June 22.

The tariffs of 25 percent include metals, farm produce such as sweetcorn and peanuts, bourbon, jeans and motor-bikes.

The move comes in response to US President Donald Trump’s controversial tariffs on steel and aluminum. Trump announced the tariffs, which are mostly aimed at China, in March and implemented them earlier this month, refusing to extend exemptions that had been in place for Europe, Canada and Mexico. The EU and others affected by the tariffs then decided to retaliate by imposing their own tariffs.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement on Wednesday that the European tariffs were a direct response to Trump’s “unilateral and unjustified” tariffs.

“We do not want to be in this position,” said Malmstrom, adding that the EU had no other choice.

Malmstrom said the EU’s “proportionate” response was in line with the World Trade Organization rules, adding that the bloc could remove the duties if the United States removed its tariffs on steel and aluminum, which could cost the EU up to 6.4 billion euros.

Washington has shown no indication it could revive exemptions for Europe while Trump has threatened to penalize European cars in what could escalate the situation into a full trade war.

Canada and Mexico have adopted similar retaliatory measures against Trump’s metal tariffs. Ottawa has announced that it will impose retaliatory tariffs on 16.6 billion Canadian dollars' ($12.5 billion) worth of US exports from July 1. Mexico has already levied duties on American products ranging from steel to pork and bourbon.

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