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US tariffs: Allies retaliate with levies on jam, lamps and sleeping bags

by: Siddiq Ansari
9 June, 2018

The US has slapped tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from its allies the EU, Canada and Mexico - but don't think they'll take it without a fight.

All three have already announced retaliatory measures as the US follows its new policy, which has been attacked as "protectionism, pure and simple" by the EU.

Ranging from serious to strange, these counter-tariffs could play a part in a growing trade battle.

It's too early to say how consumers will be hit in all the affected countries, but prices could rise throughout the world in light of these tariffs.

Read on to see which American products each US ally plans to target.

Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau objected strongly to the announced tariffs, calling them an "affront" to their nations' military alliance.

He said Canada buys half of US steel exports.

 
Media captionTrudeau: Canada not US national security threat

Canada plans "trade-restrictive countermeasures" on C$16.6bn ($12.8bn) of US goods, to come into effect on 1 July.

The country will impose a 25% tariff on assorted US steel products, including railway tracks, piping and steel sheets.

But Canada also plans a 10% tariff on more varied items:

  • Yoghurt, soya sauce, strawberry jam, "mixed condiments", pizza and quiche
  • Orange juice, whiskies, coffee, soups and waters
  • Manicure and pedicure products, hair lacquers, shaving foam, toilet paper and dishwasher detergents
  • Playing cards, felt-tipped pens, inflatable boats, lawnmowers and sleeping bags

The list, published by the Department of Finance, also includes a 10% tariff on candles - although, relax Canadians, "not including those for birthdays, Christmas or other festive occasions".

Senior Canadian officials say the list is designed to exert political pressure on the US and make it take notice of how this will affect trade.

Asked by reporters if he was ready to start a trade war with its southern neighbour, Mr Trudeau said Canada was "ready for anything".

A pizza being slicedImage copyrightPRESS ASSOCIATION
Image captionCanada is targeting a variety of US foods - including pizza

The EU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he planned to take the US to the World Trade Organization over the American tariffs, a policy he called "totally unacceptable".

Meanwhile, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom called the US measures a "dangerous game" and said the EU would not "stay silent".

The bloc released a list of tariffs in March - 10 pages of US goods it plans to target:

  • Bourbon whiskey, orange juice and cranberries
  • Jeans, T-shirts and tobacco
  • Corn and other agricultural products
  • Steel and industrial products
  • Cosmetics, consumer goods, motorbikes and pleasure boats
  • Snuff and chewing tobacco
A shop selling Levi's jeansImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe EU plans to target iconic US goods, like Levi's jeans

The aim is to have the maximum political effect. Kentucky, home to bourbon whiskey, is Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell's state.

Orange juice, meanwhile, is a major export of Florida - a key US swing state.

France's junior trade minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said he expects EU counter-measures to be completed by mid-June.

Mexico

America's southern neighbour also swiftly released a list of products on which it would impose tariffs, "up to an amount comparable to the level of damage" of US tariffs.

Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said in a radio interview that the measures would target US products from districts that would cause political difficulties for Mr Trump.

He said levies would be placed on the following:

  • Flat steel, hot and cold foil products, and piping
  • Cold cuts, pork chops and sausages
  • Berries, grapes, apples and "various cheeses"
  • Lamps
Mexico Economy Minister Ildefonso GuajardoImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMexico Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo attacked the US tariffs

Mr Guajardo said Mexico was the top buyer of US aluminium and the second-biggest buyer of US steel, and that "this kind of thing does not benefit anybody".

US tariffs could hit $4bn worth of trade between the two countries.

In 2009, Mexico imposed higher tariffs on dozens of US products such as apples, frozen potatoes and Christmas trees in a dispute over the access of Mexican trucks to US highways.

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