EU vows ‘swift’ riposte to threatened US auto import duties

BRUSSELS • The European Union (EU) promised a quick and effective response if the US imposes import duties on European autos, a spokesman for the European Commission said yesterday.

Brussels issued the threat after the US Commerce Department filed a report yesterday that empowered President Donald Trump to apply car duties within the next 90 days.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has labelled as “frightening” the prospect that this report could label European car imports as a national security threat to the US, enabling the tariffs.

The White House has already used the national security argument — saying that undermining the American manufacturing base impairs military readiness, among other claims — to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

“Were this report translated into action detrimental to European exports, the European Commission would react in a swift and adequate manner,” EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news briefing in Brussels yesterday.

The protectionist Trump has threatened 25% duties on European autos, especially targeting Germany, which he said has harmed the American car industry. German automobile groups last year exported 470,000 cars to the US.

The transatlantic flare-up followed a truce established in July, in which Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged no new tariffs while both sides pursued a limited trade deal.

Juncker “trusts Trump’s word. The EU will stick to its word as long as the US does the same”, Schinas said. — AFP