Dutch PM Rutte Seeks United European Response to Steel Tariffs

(Bloomberg) -- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the European Union needs a united response to President Donald Trump’s pledge to impose a tariff on steel imports, which may hit the Netherlands and Germany the hardest.

Rutte, addressing an audience in Berlin on his view of Europe’s future, rejected the U.S. administration’s argument that the levies are needed for national security and said the World Trade Organization should take up the case.

“We should take this very seriously,” he said Friday in response to a reporter’s question . “We should pull together and come up with a European answer.”

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Rutte, 51, visited the German capital as Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of his EU allies, seeks to clear the way for a fourth term after months of party deadlock. He echoed a warning she sounded last year that the U.S. is a less dependable ally under Trump.

“Relations with Russia have gone from bad to worse. Relations with the United States can no longer be taken for granted, and relations with China are changing rapidly,” Rutte said in his speech. “It is abundantly clear that no member state can meet these challenges alone.”

Smaller Budget

Rutte laid down Dutch markers for a post-Brexit future, saying Britain’s departure is an opportunity to trim the EU’s joint budget, to which the Netherlands is a net contributor. He also said the euro area doesn’t need its own finance minister.

“Let’s accept that the U.K. is leaving the EU and the budget will be smaller,” he said. “Let’s modernize the budget by allocating some of the existing funds to the challenges of tomorrow.”

At the same time, rebates shouldn’t be ruled out for EU governments that make “a reasonable contribution,” he said.

In office since 2010, Rutte is one of Europe’s longest-serving government leaders. After his liberal VVD party won a general election last March, his third cabinet -- a coalition with progressive liberals D66, the Christian Democratic CDA and smaller ChristenUnie party -- was sworn in in October.

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