Small 'window of opportunity' to avoid Trump trade war: EU

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Brussels (AFP)

US President Donald Trump still has a small chance to avoid a damaging global trade war brought on by his plans to impose huge tariffs on steel and aluminium, the EU's top trade official told AFP on Friday.

"There is a little window of opportunity still open," European Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen said in an interview.

"That means that the president of the US has not yet signed the proposals. So we do hope that he will reconsider his aims," the former Finnish prime minister said.

The outreached hand from Brussels will however fall on deaf ears as Trump on Friday welcomed the prospect of a trade war with other nations, remaining defiant in the face of the global uproar sparked by his raft of fresh tariffs.

"We are very close to a fast spreading trade war and in this kind of war there are only victims, not winners," Katainen said.

Katainen, who along with trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, handles trade policy for the EU, said he understood that the US was seeking to take a stand against China, which has flooded the globe with cheap steel.

"I understand the frustration but the medicine the US administration is willing to use is not right," he said.

A "global trade war... means in concrete terms unemployment, less economic growth, and worse relations between trading partners," he said.

As potential retaliation against the US, the commission has prepared a list of products which will be slapped with heavy tariffs if Trump follows through with his policy as expected next week.

Katainen refused to confirm speculation that the EU could target for products made in states that supported Trump in the presidential election, like Kentucky bourbon and Florida oranges.

In 2002, the EU threatened to tax a range of US products as part of a "steel war" unleashed by the administration of George W. Bush.

The list included not just steel products but also orange juice, apples, sunglasses, photocopiers and other goods.