EU ministers on Monday gave their backing to a $300 million package of tough trade sanctions against US products including textiles in a tit-for-tat row over steel tariffs.

The ministers voted to support plans put forward last month by the European Commission to impose 100 per cent duties on a wide range of US goods such as T-shirts, suits, shirts and dresses, women's underwear and nightdresses.

However, they did agreed to give their US counterparts more time to reach a compromise and compensate the EU through exemptions for European exports and lower tariffs on other products.

European Trade Commissioner, Pascal Lamy, commented:  "We are not upping the ante or anything like that. We are showing firmness and we are grateful to the Council for having given this firm show of solidarity.

"We are saying that using a safeguard does not come for free and we are going to negotiate very hard on the price."

He added that if the US does not back down then the sanctions could be brought in as early as August. Other products on the "hit-list" include orange juice and luxury yachts.