June 27, 2018 / 12:48 AM / a year ago

Trump trade chief vows to protect U.S. interests against EU tariffs

WASHINGTON, June 26 (Reuters) - U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer lashed out on Tuesday against retaliatory tariffs imposed by the European Union, China and other World Trade Organization members, saying that the United States would "take all necessary actions" to protect its interests.

Four days after the EU imposed tariffs on American motorcycles, bourbon, orange juice and other products in response to U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, Lighthizer said there was no legal basis for the EU response.

Countries imposing retaliatory tariffs "falsely assert" that U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs are "safeguard" actions intended to protect U.S. producers from imports," he said in a statement. The U.S. tariffs were imposed under a national security threat, which is allowed under WTO rules.

"These retaliatory tariffs underscore the complete hypocrisy that governs so much of the global trading system," Lighthizer said. The EU, China and others claim to be champions of WTO rules, he said, "but their recent tariffs prove that they simply ignore WTO rules whenever doing so is convenient."

Asked what actions the United States would take in response to the EU and other tariffs, a senior USTR official said these would likely include WTO challenges. He declined to comment when asked whether the United States would impose retaliatory tariffs of its own.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened Harley-Davidson Inc with unspecified higher taxes over the motorcycle maker's decision to move some production out of the United States to its international facilities in response to EU motorcycle tariffs. (Reporting by David Lawder Editing by Leslie Adler)

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