Europe to retaliate if U.S. imposes auto tariffs: France

PARIS (Reuters) - Europe will hit back if U.S. President Donald Trump follows through with a threat to slap import tariffs on European-made cars, France’s finance minister said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire arrives to attend a visit at the STX shipyard site in Saint-Nazaire, France, June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Trump escalated already burning trade tensions on Friday by threatening to hit all imports of cars assembled in the European Union (EU) with a 20 percent tariff.

The threat comes shortly after the United States imposed tariffs on European-made steel and aluminum in a move Washington’s NATO allies blasted as unjustifiable.

“If the United States hits us again with a 20 percent increase on cars we will respond again. We don’t want an escalation, but we are the ones being attacked,” Le Maire told the Anglo-American Press Association.

Trump posted his threat on Twitter the day European Union reprisals took effect against U.S. tariffs on European steel and aluminum. The EU targeted $3.2 billion in American goods exported to the 28-member bloc, including bourbon and Harley Davidsons HOG.N.

The company said on Monday it would move production of motorcycles shipped to the EU from the United States to its international facilities and forecast the retaliatory tariffs would cost the company $90-100 million a year.

Reacting to the news, Le Maire said: “Whatever allows jobs to be created in Europe goes in the right direction. We don’t want a trade war, but we will defend ourselves.”

Tariffs are not the only point of trade frictions between Europe and the United States.

EU countries are also furious about U.S. sanctions their companies will be subject to for doing business with Iran following Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 international nuclear deal.

Le Maire said he had so far not received “positive signs” from Washington about joint French, German and British requests for exemptions from the sanctions.

“For the moment, our requests remain unanswered,” he said

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by John Irish and Richard Balmforth