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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 04:27 GMT
EU poised to retaliate on steel
Like the US, Europe fears cheap steel imports
Brussels is set to impose tariffs of 14.9-26% on steel imports, to protect itself from a possible surge of metal diverted from the US.

According to European Commission officials, the measures - which are being cleared with European Union member states - are to be formally adopted on Wednesday and will take effect in early April.

President George W Bush has infuriated the EU by slapping protectionist tariffs of up to 30% on steel imported from Europe and other major producers.

This has raised fears that steel which normally would have been sold in the US, will be sold on the European market, damaging local producers.

Steel barrier

EU Commission trade spokesman Anthony Gooch said the trade measures would be in place for about six months.

If the US has not removed its tariffs by that time, the measures could be made permanent, he said.

He added that only two-fifths of the steel imported into the EU would be affected by the tariffs.

Duties would be applied on steel imported in excess of a 5.7 million tonne quota.

The quota represents less than one-quarter of the volume of steel imported into the EU last year.

Hitting back

Over and above the steel measures, the EU has drawn up a list of US goods that could be hit with $2bn-worth of sanctions if Brussels and Washington fail to reach a trade deal.

Among them are citrus fruit exports including orange and grapefruit juice from Florida, where President George W Bush's brother, Jeb, is the governor.

Textiles are also on the list of imports in line for retaliatory action.

On Monday the US Trade Representative's office said it would consider challenging the action at the World Trade Organisation.

"We seriously question whether the EU action on safeguards is appropriate, given that there has been no time even to increase steel exports to Europe," said a spokesman for the USTR.

The BBC's Tim Fawcett
"The EU will impose tariffs of up to 26% across a range of 15 steel products"
See also:

22 Mar 02 | Business
EU drafts steel war retaliation
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