Carrying out Donald Trump’s promises and threats, the US government on Thursday announced that as of Friday, imports of steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada and Mexico will be hit with additional tariffs.
With countermeasures from the other side, we will see the American president’s insistence on isolating his country from its allies affecting not only US-EU relations and developments within Europe, but also each one of us.
Steel products constituted about 69 million euros of the total exports of 888.7 million euros from Greece to the United States last year, according to Foreign Ministry figures.
The amount is not so important that Trump’s action will, of its own, have severe consequences for Greece. It will, however, have a direct impact on exports to the United States; also, as other countries seek new markets outside the United States, Greek companies will face stiffer competition wherever they do business.
We cannot yet know the consequences of a dispute that could lead to a trade war, but the only thing that is certain is that neither the prospects of the Greek or European or American economies will improve, nor will prices drop, nor new jobs materialize.
This instability in global trade and in US-EU relations is now added to the uncertainty caused by Trump’s unilateral actions in the Middle East, at a time when the EU has to handle Brexit, the rise of nationalist-populists in several European countries and an unpredictable Turkey – even as Italy threatens the foundations of the whole European project.
The domestic doubt over its principles and institutions weakens the EU, heightening tension between member-states and increasing risks for the Union.
Europe, however, has been handling emergencies since the Greek crisis broke in 2010. Even as threats accumulate, it has had some time to set up risk management mechanisms and has developed some antibodies to dangers.
In the United States, on the contrary, Trump fell upon the country like a storm without end; however predictable it may have been, the damage is inestimable and growing.
Perhaps the best we can hope for is that the danger posed by Trump’s policies is so evident that not only the Europeans but also greater numbers of Americans will understand that they must defend themselves.
The Europeans might then work together to deal with domestic disputes and foreign threats, while the Americans – with their votes and institutions – might put a brake on Trump’s reckless course.