June 1, 2018 / 12:58 PM / 5 months ago

And the kitchen sink: EU to hit back at U.S. tariffs

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union’s plans to hit back at new U.S. tariffs on EU steel and aluminum exports include hiking duties on a range of imports from the United States, from blue jeans and rice to the proverbial kitchen sink.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

In eight closely typed pages of documentation lodged at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, the EU has set out 25-percent tariff increases that are in part aimed at hurting the electoral districts of some of President Donald Trump’s allies.

That explains “motorcycles ... of a cylinder capacity above 800 cc”, which targets Harley-Davidson, built in the home turf of House Speaker Paul Ryan, and “bourbon whiskey”, aimed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky electors.

There is a range, evidently, of steel and aluminum in their various forms as well as intriguingly precise targets such as “canoes” and “manicure or pedicure preparations”, “dried shelled kidney beans” or “chewing tobacco and snuff”. “Playing cards”, too, are hit - but only with an additional 10-percent duty.

A second EU list of a similar length has also been published at the WTO, lining up new targets for later if the trade dispute is not resolved. That will be bad news for U.S. manufacturers of “statuettes and other ornamental articles of porcelain or china” or, indeed, whoever makes “plasma cleaner machines that remove organic contaminants from electron microscopy specimens”.

EU leaders insist that they do not want “trade war” with Trump. But they are determined to defend their interests against what they call illegal U.S. duties — and do that they are ready to throw in “sinks and washbasins, of stainless steel”.

Reporting by Phil Blenkinsop and Alastair Macdonald

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