Trump’s steel tariffs come into effect as EU plans retaliation
The punitive steel tariffs imposed by Donald Trump on the EU have come into effect as the temporary reprieve draws to a close.
The tariffs include a 25% levy on imported steel, and a 10% levy on aluminium. The Government has called the move ‘disappointing’, but there is a widespread perception that the Conservatives’ desperation for a post-Brexit trade deal will prevent them taking decisive action.
Labour’s Barry Gardiner told Radio 4 that the government’s action must be resolute:
"We have to see this as part of a pattern of behaviour and respond strongly to it and make clear to him we are not susceptible to the intimidation, threats and bullying that he is putting in place."
The EU has already put forward a ten-page list of US manufactured items on which they will raise tariffs, including Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Observers are alarmed at the prospect of a trade war, which Trump, in his typically intelligent fashion, has described as ‘good’, and ‘easy to win.’
There are 30,000 people working in the steel industry across the UK, with many more in the supply chain. The regional concentration of the steel industry - in Yorkshire, South Wales, and Scotland, means that although the number of workers at risk is small, the effects on communities will be devastating.
The UK’s steel industry is still barely recovering from the 2016 crisis, when the government, desperately vying for Chinese investment, blocked EU measures to stop Chinese steel dumping which saw prices tumble across the continent.
Ross Murdoch, the GMB union’s national officer for steel said earlier in march that trade unions will not take the threat to Europe’s steel industry lying down:
“We will campaign alongside sister trade unions and other stakeholders to assist the European Commission on this issue in the interest of safeguarding jobs and preserving market stability.
“During the Bombardier crisis the UK’s Government response was frankly pathetic.
"GMB now calls on Ministers to redeem themselves by lobbying the EU on behalf of UK Steel jobs and communities.”