An employee works on the joint inside a steel pipe at the SAW Pipe Mills, operated by Liberty Commodities Ltd., in Hartlepool, U.K. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

EU Retaliation Against U.S. Over Metal Tariffs to Start June 22

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union triggered the first phase of retaliation against the U.S. over its metal-import tariffs imposed on national-security grounds, making good on more than three months of threats to hit American goods with tit-for-tat levies.

The European Commission in Brussels gave final approval for a 25 percent duty on 2.8 billion euros ($3.2 billion) of EU imports of a range of U.S. products including Harley-Davidson Inc. motorcycles, Levi Strauss & Co. jeans and bourbon whiskey. A separate 10 percent levy is being applied to U.S. playing cards imported into the bloc.

The duties, due to be published in the Official Journal on Thursday and to take effect on Friday, are a response to U.S. tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum that the EU says are pure protectionism masquerading as national-security policy.

“We did not want to be in this position,” European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement on Wednesday. “However, the unilateral and unjustified decision of the U.S. to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU means that we are left with no other choice.”

The EU countermeasures cover a total of around 200 categories of U.S. products also including various types of corn, rice, orange juice, cigarettes, cigars, t-shirts, cosmetics, boats and steel.

The EU is reserving the right to target more U.S. products with further duties no later than March 23, 2021. Second-stage retaliation would involve levies ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent on an extra 3.6 billion euros of American goods imported into the EU.

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