Malmström: US tariffs on EU cars could absolutely happen

INNSBRUCK, Austria — EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström warned Friday that American tariffs on European cars “could absolutely happen,” and said that she would meet again with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer at the end of November to try to avoid such an escalation.

Malmström told reporters that auto tariffs from President Donald Trump are “not around the corner because the investigation is not done yet from the U.S. side, but it could absolutely happen.”

She added that the EU is drafting its own retaliation list: “We are ready, and we have said so very clearly to the United States, that we will take measures,” the trade commissioner said.

Asked whether Brussels is willing to accept quotas that would protect a limited amount of car exports from tariffs, Malmström said: “The European Union can never accept anything that is not compliant with WTO.”

Trade experts have argued that voluntary export restrictions, such as the car export quotas that the U.S. forced upon Canada and Mexico in the new NAFTA deal, run counter to WTO rules.

The EU hopes that swift progress in the area of regulatory cooperation could avoid a tariff escalation. Malmström said she is “waiting for U.S. reactions” on an EU proposal, and said that trade experts from both sides would hold discussions this “later this month.”

“Then I will meet with Lighthizer end of November,” she said, adding that how far they will be able to advance “depends on how the talks in October go.”

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