Donald Trump rejects Theresa May's appeal on steel and aluminium tariffs

4 March 2018, 15:43

Donald Trump appears to have rejected Theresa May's appeal over his plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports into the US.

On Sunday, the Prime Minister used a telephone call with the US President to express her "deep concern" at his proposal, which has prompted an escalating war of words between Washington and the European Union.

Mrs May told Mr Trump that "multilateral action was the only way to resolve the problem of global overcapacity in all parties' interests", a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

However, the US President later seemed to dismiss the Prime Minister's entreaties as he doubled down on his stance.

He posted on Twitter: "We are on the losing side of almost all trade deals. Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the U.S. for many years.

"Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it's time for a change! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"

On Sunday, Mrs May's de facto deputy also hit out at Mr Trump's trade rhetoric.

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme: "I just think that the United States is not taking an advisable course in threatening a trade war.

"Trade wars don't do anybody any good."

Mr Trump has threatened to increase taxes on European cars if the EU retaliates against his steel and aluminium tariffs.

He said he would slap a tax on cars from the continent after the European Commission's president said on Friday the bloc would tax American goods, mainly from strong Republican states.

Jean-Claude Juncker said plans to put tariffs on products such as Kentucky bourbon, Levi's jeans and Harley-Davidsons had not been finalised.

He said they would treat the products "the same way" the US wants to handle tariffs on European metals.

In retaliation, Mr Trump tweeted on Saturday night: "If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on US companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S. They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there.

"Big trade imbalance!"

He also hit out at "very stupid" trade deals by earlier administrations and said other countries "laugh at what fools our leaders have been. No more!"

It is not clear whether a European car tariff would include British-made cars such as Aston Martin or Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by Indian company Tata but produced in the UK, after Brexit.

The tit-for-tat row started when Mr Trump announced on Thursday that he would impose stiff tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium imports from anywhere in the world.

His announcement shocked many industry executives but meant he was following up on a key campaign promise to put "America first".

Shortly after the statement, Mr Juncker told German media: "None of this is reasonable, but reason is sentiment that is very unevenly distributed in this world."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman warned the tariffs could lead to a global trade war which "can't be in anyone's interest".

Australian, Canadian and other American trade partners also launched retaliatory threats.

The US already has a 2.5% duty tax on European cars against the 10% tax which the EU levies on American-made cars.

Despite Mr Trump's bravado, his threat to further tax cars and metals may be difficult to pull off.

The current tax on European cars was decided through complicated international negotiations so to increase it the President may have to pull the US out of the World Trade Organisation.