The tariffs on steel and aluminum that former US President Donald Trump imposed on Europe and European retaliatory measures are largely on ice. In return, Europe and the United States will join forces to combat steel pollution from China.
US President Joe Biden announced a ceasefire on steel tariffs with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome. The deal has been intensively negotiated in recent days by trade teams from both countries.
The fact that Biden is still applying the 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum that his predecessor Donald Trump imposed has been a thorn in the Union’s side for some time. So, Europe kept its retaliatory measures: a 25 percent surcharge on jeans, iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycles, whiskey, and a host of other American products.
Europe postponed increasing those sanctions earlier this year, hoping to facilitate a deal with the United States. This agreement turned out to be more difficult than expected. Biden’s domestic agenda centers on protecting the middle class and self-employment, including the steel sector. So it was impossible to draw a complete line through the decisions of his predecessor Trump.
The first breakout came in June. The European Union and the United States have suspended the oldest and most expensive bilateral trade dispute ever for five years: bickering and punitive duties between Europe and the United States over subsidies for aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing. Altogether, it included $11.5 billion in retaliatory measures.
Europe and the United States now use the same recipe for European steel tariffs and punitive duties. The ceasefire would halt most import duties on steel and aluminum. There will be no tariffs on the first 3.3 million tons of European steel imported into the United States. A 25 percent tax still applies to steel above that quota. A similar agreement has been drawn up for aluminum.
Return of transatlantic trade to pre-tariff levels.
The United States imported 2.5 million tons of steel in 2020, well below the 3.9 million tons in both 2018 and 2017. “Transatlantic trade has returned to pre-tariff levels,” Valdis Dombrovskis confirms.
China’s goal too
European sources admit that the deal is not a dream solution. The agreement enhances bilateral cooperation. European Commission Vice President for Economics and Trade Valdis Dombrovskis sees a “reset” of relations with the United States. September of this year also saw the first meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council, a new trade and technology advisory body that aims to set common rules and standards.
Commission President Ossola von der Leyen spoke in Rome of “a milestone in our renewed future agenda with the United States; Joe Biden spoke of a “new era” in EU-US cooperation.
In this way, the United States puts Europe at the forefront of competition with China. China is also the target in the Airbus, Boeing, steel and aluminum agreement now. The two superpowers want to eliminate the excess energy in steel and make the sector climate neutral. Europe and the United States give themselves two years to reach an agreement. And now China is responsible for half of worldwide steel production. And because this Chinese steel is often produced with electricity based on coal, it is not environmentally friendly.
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