Before the United States announced Thursday that it would impose steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, the Europeans had already resigned themselves to their fate. After months of lobbying Washington for a permanent waiver from the tariffs, the EU this week dropped expectations that it would receive any sort of exemption. Instead, it cautioned its members to “prepare for the worst.” The levies are expected to go into effect on Friday.
In many ways, the Europeans probably saw this coming a while ago. After all, President Trump’s decision to impose a 25-percent steel tariff and 10-percent aluminum tariff on key U.S. allies, which he said is necessary for the country’s national security, marks just one in a series of recent blows to the transatlantic alliance. It also caps a year defined by policy divergence, during which two allies accustomed to standing shoulder to shoulder have found themselves increasingly on opposing sides.
The first of these divergences came almost exactly a year ago, when Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the first international treaty to combat climate change. The move was met with criticism around the world, though no one voiced their disappointment as strongly as French President Emmanuel Macron. After reaffirming that France and its partners would continue to uphold the agreement without the U.S., the French leader reminded Americans that “we all share the same responsibility” to, borrowing from Trump’s campaign slogan, “make our planet great again.”