It’s been coming for a while, but a tweet made the threat official (and specific): On Friday, President Trump denounced European duties on American automobiles and said if they were not removed, the U.S. would hit back twice as hard.
Based on the Tariffs and Trade Barriers long placed on the U.S. and it great companies and workers by the European Union, if these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20% Tariff on all of their cars coming into the U.S. Build them here!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2018
The United States and Europe are now locked in an escalating trade dispute that began in March, when Trump announced his intention to impose massive steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU and other U.S. allies. But the tariffs Trump is responding to actually predate the current trade dispute; the European Union already had a 10-percent tariff on auto imports from the United States, whereas the U.S. charged much less for European auto imports. Since Trump’s new metal tariffs went into effect weeks ago, however, the situation has spiraled downward. The move was unanimously denounced by the tariffs’ targets—which included Canada and Mexico in addition to the EU—and made for an awkward gathering at this month’s Group of Seven summit. That normally staid annual meeting ended this time in the American president retracting his endorsement of the attendees’ joint communique, and attacking Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron over Twitter. Each country announced it would slap new charges on American imports.
In fact, the EU’s new tariffs, on items like bourbon and blue jeans, went into effect Friday. It’s not clear whether Trump’s new threat was timed to mark that event. After all, it was only two days ago that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told American lawmakers that the White House had made “no decision” on whether to recommend tariffs on automobile imports.