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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker chairs a meeting of the EU executive body in Brussels, Belgium May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

EU threatens to target Levi’s and other iconic American brands

Hours after Trump said in a Twitter message that “trade wars are good, and easy to win,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc was prepared to respond forcefully

US President Donald Trump set the stage for a trade war by slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, daring other countries to retaliate and leading the EU to warn that it would target iconic American brands. In turn, Trump put the European auto industry in his sights.

Hours after Trump said in a Twitter message that “trade wars are good, and easy to win,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc was prepared to respond forcefully by targeting imports of Harley-Davidson motorbikes, Levi Strauss & Co jeans and bourbon whiskey from the US. Juncker’s threat heightened the prospects of a global free-for-all, as the World Trade Organization (WTO) said the potential of escalating tensions “is real” and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned the restrictions would likely damage the US and global economy.

Trump tweeted on Saturday that “If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on US companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the US.”

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The president faces anger from manufacturers and trade partners in Asia and Europe, as well as from allies such as Republican lawmakers, after announcing tariffs of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminum for “a long period of time.”

He’s expected to sign the formal order as early as the coming week after certain formalities are completed, Peter Navarro, director of the National Trade Council at the White House, said on Saturday. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Friday the president has chosen to impose the tariffs on all countries and products, dimming the hopes for nations such as Australia still pressing for an exemption.

Meanwhile, Peter Navarro, director of the National Trade Council at the White House, said on Sunday that certain exemptions could be made to the tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, but exclusions for entire countries aren’t expected.

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