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wine lobster

The UK government has launched a public consultation regarding its response to US tariffs on European steel that remain in place from President Trump’s time in the White House.

Earlier this week, international trade secretary Liz Truss announced the review of the retaliatory tariffs that were introduced by the EU in response to US duties on steel and aluminium imports.

Rolled on

Introduced in 2018, the US imposed levies of 25% and 10% on steel and aluminium from EU nations, which then included the UK.

These tariffs remain in place for imports from the UK despite the country leaving the EU in 2020.

Whiskey and motorbikes

The UK currently has its own retaliatory tariffs in place on US exports of whiskey, motorcycles and tobacco.

These duties were rolled over when the UK completed its split from the EU at the end of the transition period.

Deescalate the dispute

Truss said the UK had the power to shape tariffs to reflect its own interests and economy, but said she wanted to deescalate the dispute and work closely with the US on issues like WTO reform and tackling unfair trade practices.

“The UK will do whatever is necessary to protect our steel industry against illegal tariffs that could undermine British industry and damage our businesses,” she added.

Wine, chocolate and lobster

US wine, chocolate and lobster are among the products being considered for future UK tariffs, Reuters reports.

Customs data show Britain imported 133,512 tonnes of wine from the United States last year, worth £224m, with chocolate worth £31m. Britain also imports more lobsters from the US than it exports.

Biden pressure

While President Joe Biden is keen to improve transatlantic trade relations, he is under pressure from the US steel industry to maintain his predecessor’s tariffs, the FT reports.

Steel mills in the US have prospered in the past year and are lobbying the president to keep the tariffs in place.

Last week industry bodies and steel worker unions wrote to Biden to argue that removing the tariffs would “undermine the viability of the American steel industry”.

Politically difficult

Paul Sracic, a professor of political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio, said removing tariffs will be “politically really difficult” for Biden.

“Steel is a powerful word, it symbolises American might and it’s seen as a fundamentally American industry,” he said.

Too expensive

However, the US Chamber of Commerce, has countered that soaring steel prices present serious challenges to American manufacturers.

Last week about 300 smaller US businesses wrote to Biden to demand that the duties be dropped, saying the costs of US steel were too great.

They said buying American steel was 40% more expensive compared to purchases from Europe, when no tariffs are applied.