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German official warns of U.S. tariffs on Europe

Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) — European Union member states should brace for U.S. tariffs on several fronts in the months ahead, a senior German official warned late on Tuesday, just hours before Washington launched a probe of a planned French digital tax that could trigger future tariffs.

Peter Beyer, Germany’s transatlantic coordinator and member of parliament, said while there was continued U.S. interest in dialog with Europe, the Trump administration nonetheless appeared poised to impose tariffs over disputes about aircraft subsidies, the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline and European car imports.

U.S. President Donald Trump in May said some imported vehicles and parts posed a national security threat, but postponed a decision on imposing tariffs on European and Japanese auto imports for as long as six months to allow time for trade talks with both partners.

European officials have said privately that they fear that Trump will now turn his attention to Europe, after brokering a truce in a protracted trade battle with China.

Trump on Wednesday ordered an investigation to determine whether France’s planned 3 percent tax on the French revenue of large internet companies was unfairly targeting certain U.S.-based companies. Prior investigations focused on China’s trade practices and EU subsidies on large commercial aircraft.

“These are difficult discussions in a difficult international environment,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said after a meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Washington.

He said the exchange with Mnuchin was “productive and constructive,” focusing on reducing global tensions, easing trade disputes and keeping jobs in both countries.

Altmaier is due to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday.

Later on Wednesday, the minister told an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund that Washington and Brussels could reach a trade deal on industrial products by year-end if there exists the sufficient political will to get it done.

“We have to act now. There is no time to be wasted,” Altmaier said. “If there is a political will, we could come to a solution before the end of the year.”

He also said Europe and the United States could be far more effective in leveling the playing field with China if they resolved their differences and worked together to “streamline and coordinate our respective efforts a little more.”

Beyer, who met with officials from the USTR’s office and the White House, as well as U.S. lawmakers, said the auto tariffs were likely in mid-November, given growing impatience in Washington with the EU and the bloc’s refusal to include agriculture in broader trade talks.

“When it comes to the car tariffs, I unfortunately think they are more likely than not to be imposed in mid-November. There is quite a lot of impatience on the U.S. side. But that also requires us on the European side to be strong and unified.”Speech

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