The Irish Government, along with the rest of the EU Member States, is deeply disappointed with the current direction of US trade policy. We - all 28 EU Member States and the EU Commission - are clear that these tariffs are not justifiable on national security grounds. We fully subscribe to the EU position that these tariffs are unjustified and in conflict with WTO rules.
The EU Commission, which leads on Trade Policy for the Member States under the Treaties, and working in full consultation with the Member States, has prepared a measured, proportionate, and WTO-compatible response, which Ireland has fully supported. These measures include the launching of proceedings by the EU against the US at the WTO, the introduction of rebalancing tariff measures by the EU and the possible imposition of provisional safeguard measures comprising import quotas or tariffs to shield EU producers from a sudden influx of steel or aluminium into the EU market which would ordinarily have been destined for the US market.
EU leaders have also endorsed a positive agenda for dialogue on trade issues with the US, once the steel and aluminium tariffs against the EU are lifted. Ireland is of the view that the EU should not negotiate under threat, and that any talks must be preceded by a permanent exemption. The EU and its Member States are also working with other like-minded countries – such as Japan, Canada, and Mexico – to develop an agreed approach to issues of concern. We continue, of course, to keep open the lines of communication with the US Administration and other key ‘influencers’.
The US has sought to use the threat of tariffs as leverage to obtain trade concessions from the EU. The EU’s united approach that we are willing and able to respond when necessary in the face of such unilateral non-WTO-compliant actions is vital . We believe the US Administration is resolute on these issues at this time and, therefore, we believe the EU must remain as resolute and stay united. The alternative is to accept such action in breach of WTO rules as the EU understands them. Over the past number of months, the EU has engaged with the US at all possible levels, and with other partners, to find a solution to the problem of overcapacity in the steel sector. Indeed, I met with Secretary Ross in Washington to discuss these and related matters in May.
At a national level, we continue to monitor potential impacts of the trade measures being taken by the US, as well as those being contemplated. We remain alive to the fact that while certain actions may have limited impact at macro level, this could possibly mask individual firm level impacts. To this end, my Department and its agencies are keeping the situation under review. Indeed, I convened a meeting of my Enterprise Forum on Brexit and Global Challenges last week to discuss our strategy and hear, first hand, from a variety of representative bodies, their issues and concerns.