Macron deplores Trump move to slap tariffs on EU allies

Trade wars lead to real wars, says French President Emmanuel Macron

“This decision is not only illegal, it’s an error on several counts,” – French President Emmanuel Macron responds to decision by US administration to impose tariffs on EU steel and aluminium imports to US. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer / EPA

“This decision is not only illegal, it’s an error on several counts,” – French President Emmanuel Macron responds to decision by US administration to impose tariffs on EU steel and aluminium imports to US. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer / EPA

 

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he “deplores” US President Donald Trump’s “illegal” decision to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminium. He telephoned Mr Trump on Thursday night to warn him that the EU will retaliate “in a firm and proportionate” way.

“This decision is not only illegal, it’s an error on several counts,” Mr Macron said. “It’s an error because it responds to imbalance in global trade in the worst way, that is to say by fragmenting and through economic nationalism… Economic nationalism leads to war.”

France has less to lose than other EU countries from the looming trade war with the US. Of the €6.4 billion in European steel and aluminium exports to be affected by Mr Trump’s tariffs, only €700 million come from France.

Speaking during a stopover in Montreal en route for the G7 finance ministers’ meeting in Whistler, Canada, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said, “We refuse to negotiate under pressure. I saw [US secretary of commerce] Wilbur Ross this morning and I told him clearly that the countries of the EU will never accept to negotiate under pressure.”

Mr Le Maire said Europeans could not understand how such a decision could be taken by “close allies”. He added: “We firmly believe the decision taken by the US administration is unacceptable, unjustifiable and will have grave consequences for the global economy.”

Pascal Lamy, the former head of the World Trade Organisation, said it was “grotesque” for Mr Trump to claim to act in the interest of US national security. “It is absolutely ridiculous to claim that exporting steel and aluminium from Europe to the US is a threat to US national security, as if they needed steel to make tanks and bombs to bomb Europe,” he said.

Mr Macron said Mr Trump’s decision endangered “proactive and positive discussions” with the US “on other subjects”. French officials are concerned that the transatlantic relationship, which has already been frayed by Mr Trump’s unilateral decisions to leave the climate accord and the Iran nuclear accord, and to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, will further deteriorate because of the trade dispute.

Pierre Vimont, a former French ambassador to Washington, told Le Monde that Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Theresa May are “capable of forging a convincing response” to Mr Trump. Mr Macron appears prepared to lead the charge, but he could be held back by his European partners. Dr Merkel is very worried by the possibility that Mr Trump may impose tariffs on German automobiles, which seem to obsess him. And Ms May wants to preserve Britain’s relationship with the US in the run-up to Brexit.

The Trump administration has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the World Trade Organisation, which Mr Macron wants to reform. “If anyone can manage to bring together Americans, Europeans, Chinese and Japanese around one table, it’s Emmanuel Macron,” Roberto Azevêdo, the director general of the WTO, told the financial daily Les Échos. “He has the leadership, the network and the political vision.”