Trump's Tariffs Risk EU Backlash as Germany Scolds Protectionism

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union pushed back against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines, in yet one more sign of increasing strain in the political alliance.

“We’re following the action from the Trump administration very closely, not only when it comes to this but also the tax reform,” Swedish Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters before a meeting with her colleagues from the bloc in Brussels. “And of course we have to follow it very closely, have discussions with the administration but also have discussions within the WTO so that all countries follow the rules that we have agreed upon.”

The U.S. said on Monday it will impose new duties of as much as 30 percent on foreign-made solar equipment, and tariffs starting as high as 50 percent on imported washing machines. The EU, which is the world’s largest trading bloc, joined Chinese and South Korean officials in condemning the move.

“Our position is that the fewer the tariffs, the less protectionism, the better it is for the people in our countries,” German Acting Finance Minister Peter Altmaier told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday. “Because in the end it leads to imports and products in the U.S. becoming more expensive and that consumers can afford fewer washing machines and products.” He said that he will seek talks with his American colleagues on the matter.

The discord over protectionism adds to a long list of disputes that have come between the U.S. and the EU since Trump’s election win -- from tax cuts and Iran to environmental policies, and from Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel to his threat of unilateral military action against North Korea. The tariffs were announced as Trump prepares to travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the international business and political elite gather to mull the current state of the global order.

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