U.K.'s May Urges Restraint by EU Counterparts on Tariff Response

(Bloomberg) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May urged her European Union counterparts to show restraint when retaliating against U.S. tariffs on European steel and aluminum, saying any action should comply with World Trade Organization rules.

May has frequently disagreed with U.S. President Donald Trump on foreign policy matters and expressed her disagreement again Thursday over “unjustified” U.S. protectionism. Even so, she needs to seek trade deals once the U.K. leaves the European Union, its biggest trading partner.

The EU Commission has said it would retaliate in kind with tariffs starting July 1 that target iconic U.S. products such as Harley-Davidson motorbikes, jeans and bourbon whisky.

“Obviously the European Union will be responding,” May told reporters en route to the G-7 summit in Canada. “We want to ensure, and we’re working with others in the European Union to ensure that this response is proportionate, that it is within the WTO rules.”

While May is due to hold bilateral talks with five of the other six national leaders at the summit, she is not scheduled to have a formal sit down with Trump. U.K. officials have said they hope the pair will meet at some point outside of group sessions.

The meetings on Friday and Saturday will be the first opportunity for America’s closest allies to express their frustration in face-to-face meetings with Trump after he imposed steel and aluminum tariffs last week.

President Emmanuel Macron of France has warned he will not sign the summit’s traditional joint statement unless progress is made on tariffs and other contentious issues, an official in his office said on Wednesday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile is promising to challenge Trump on the environment.

Trump is planning a state visit to the U.K. in July. May was the first foreign leader to visit him when he took office, but their relationship has been fraught.

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