Reprieve for the EU: US tariffs hit China first

The US government has announced that the EU and six other countries will be exempt from tariffs on steel and aluminium imports until the start of May. Beijing, however, won't be given a reprieve and has announced plans to introduce tariffs to the tune of three billion dollars against Washington. Europe has no reason to be relieved, commentators warn.

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Die Welt (DE) /

Just the end of the beginning

The fact that individual countries and the EU will be spared for the time being could quickly turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory, Die Welt fears:

“First of all, now less than half of all steel imports are affected by the tariffs. So Trump's steel protectionism has as many holes as a fishnet. This means that the announced 37-percent reduction in imports can at best only be achieved in theory. Consequently there's a strong likelihood that the Trump administration will look for reasons to cancel the exemptions. Secondly, the conflict with major steel producer China, which isn't exempt from the tariffs, will be exacerbated. ... It's worryingly easy to believe that things might escalate out of control. Hence, the most recent turn of events doesn't mark the end of the conflict, but just the end of the beginning.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Unity is the EU's most powerful weapon

The danger has not been averted, De Standaard also warns:

“There is a serious risk of this peace coming at a price. The EU could face a dilemma: either it gets into a conflict with the US, or it sides with the Americans against China. That would be a particularly difficult choice because not all member states enjoy the same trade relations. The worst scenario would be if Trump were able to play the member states off against one another. That must be avoided at all costs. ... Despite justified criticism of the way the EU functions, in situations like this we see just how valuable it is.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Abolishing tariffs is the best strategy

The EU should react to Trump's trade policy with de-escalating measures, journalist Christian Ortner recommends in Wiener Zeitung:

“Not everyone may be aware that in the EU tariffs flow directly into the coffers of the Brussels institutions, where they account for roughly a tenth of the budget. And the higher the tariffs, the more money flows from the pockets of EU consumers into those coffers. The German economist Hans-Werner Sinn proposed a smart response to Trump: instead of increasing EU tariffs they should for the most part be abolished. First of all that would increase EU citizens' buying power because it would make imports from the US cheaper. And secondly it would put Trump under pressure not only not to increase his tariffs, but to lower them in turn.”