EU to hit US with $3.3 billion in retaliatory tariffs

Tariffs to start next month

By JACKIE WATTLES AND ALANNA PETROFF
China Photos/Getty Images

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - The European Union's plan to impose tariffs on roughly 2.8 billion ($3.3 billion) worth of American goods will go into effect in early July, the European Commission said Wednesday.

The duties aim to punch back at the United States after the Trump administration last week moved forward with hefty import taxes on steel and aluminum on some of its closest allies, including Canada, Mexico and the 28-nation European Union.

All three have announced retaliatory measures.

EU officials last week lodged a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization.

The stakes in a trade war are high: The United States and the European Union trade just over 1 trillion ($1.2 trillion) in goods and services each year.

The EU's retaliatory tariffs were expected. When the Trump administration first floated the idea of steel and aluminum tariffs in March, the European Union delineated exactly which American goods it planned to hit back at if Washington moved forward. They include denim, orange juice, bourbon, motorcycles, peanut butter, motor boats and cigarettes.

And if the trade dispute continues or is not resolved by the WTO, a second batch of American exports worth around 3.7 billion ($4.3 billion) a year could eventually be targeted. The list includes roughly 160 products such as US sunbeds, paper towels, corduroy pants and porcelain tableware that could face EU tariffs between 10% to 50%.

Those tariffs could go into effect "in three years' time or after a positive finding in WTO dispute settlement if that should come sooner," according to the EU statement.

Officials say the total value of goods targeted is a dollar for dollar response to US tariffs.

In a statement, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrm called the United States' decision to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminum exports "unilateral and illegal."

"What's more, the EU's reaction is fully in line with international trade law. We regret that the United States left us with no other option than to safeguard EU interests," she said.

Industry experts have warned that EU retaliation could encourage the Trump administration to strike back with more trade barriers on items like European cars. That could spark another round of escalation.

For its part, Mexico on Tuesday imposed a series of tariffs against US exports to its market valued at $3 billion. They'll hike the price of products including pork, apples, potatoes, bourbon as well as different types of cheese.

Canada has also announced plans to retaliate with tariffs of up to 25% on nearly $13 billion of US products, set to take effect on July 1. Those products include US steel and aluminum as well as food and other agricultural products.

CNNMoney's Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

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