WASHINGTON — It’s not a trade war yet, but European Union and U.S. officials began talks Tuesday in Geneva over the extent the EU could retaliate against punitive tariffs the U.S. has slapped on steel imports.
The World Trade Organization, in a decision not expected until summer 2003, will be the final arbiter on whether the U.S. violated rules governing global trade. If the WTO rules against the U.S., the EU could then levy its own tariffs on a list of U.S. goods that could include apparel.
The EU claims the steel tariffs run afoul of WTO rules of fairness. The U.S. argues the tariffs are permitted because steel imports are being sold at below the cost of production. Other countries, including China, are expected to pursue their own complaints with the U.S. over the steel tariffs.
The EU has estimated the steel tariffs will cost its 15-member nations $2.5 billion. The size of the damage, which would equal the size of retaliatory tariffs, is what Tuesday’s talks were all about. No decisions were made and more talks will be held, an EU spokesman said.
By May 20, the EU will submit a list of U.S. products to which it would like to impose tariffs of up to 100 percent.