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USA: Global:
Wed, Jan 29, 2020, 1:18:17 ---- The fact: 42.844.000 visitors done.

EU approves retaliation for U.S. steel tariffs
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Company: TubeNet Editor, Finland
Attn: Juha Haapala

BRUSSELS - European Union officials gave the go-ahead yesterday for plans to hit the United States with possible trade sanctions worth hundreds of millions of dollars from next month in a bitter transatlantic row over steel.

The European Commission, the EU's executive, said members of the 15-nation bloc had backed its idea of retaliating against new U.S. steel duties with sanctions worth US$300-million on a range of U.S. goods from June 18.

The commission also said the EU had made a formal request to the World Trade Organization to form a dispute panel to rule on the new U.S. steel duties.

The row has added to a series of EU-U.S. spats and increased global trade tensions.

"Today, the 15-member states lent unanimous support to the commission in its strategy to respond to the illegal safeguard measures taken by the U.S.A. on steel in late March," the commission said in a statement after EU trade officials met.

It said the member states had given the commission approval to inform the WTO of its plans for the sanctions, called a suspension of concessions, and hand over the lists of goods it will hit with punitive 100% duties.

This is a formal step under WTO rules that is needed to reserve the right for the commission to impose the sanctions.

It has said it will do this if talks on compensation from the United States for the steel duties, in the form of lower tariffs on other goods, fail.

A further approval actually to impose sanctions will be needed from EU ministers, which would have to be given before the June 18 deadline.

The EU request to form a WTO dispute panel came after a period of 60 days for consultations with Washington on the U.S. steel duties had elapsed, the commission added.

The EU was angered by the new U.S. duties, imposed at up to 30% on a range of steel products in March. It accused Washington of protectionism, but the United States said the duties were justified after a flood of imports.

A ruling from the WTO dispute panel for or against the U.S. steel duties will not come until next year, but the commission drew up a plan for quick sanctions ahead of such a decision.

The commission has insisted its plans for sanctions ahead of a WTO ruling are legal under global trade rules, but Washington has said it may in turn challenge them at the WTO.

The commission also has plans to widen the scope of its action if the WTO eventually finds against the United States and Washington does not subsequently withdraw the steel duties.

This wider list of goods, to be hit by duties from 8% to 30%, would be worth some $600 million euros ($860.2-million).

The commission said it would continue talks on getting U.S. compensation for the steel duties, although both sides have reported little progress so far.

"The EU hopes that the U.S. will be fully engaged in these negotiations," the commission said.

The steel row is the latest to cause tensions between the EU and the United States at a time when the two trade giants are supposed to be jointly backing more global trade liberalization.

Other rows involve EU bans on imports of U.S. genetically modified crops, a dispute over U.S. tax breaks for exporters and, most recently, EU anger over a new farm bill that hikes subsidies for U.S. agricultural producers.

The commission has already introduced import duties to protect European steel firms. It rejects the accusation of tit-for-tat protectionism by saying it is not shutting the market, just making sure that floods of steel shut out of the U.S. market do not find their way to Europe.

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