• The European Commission, has released a draft list of products that may in future attract retaliatory duties in response to proposed US aluminium and steel tariffs.
  • The Commission says it may scrap special low or zero duty market access that the US enjoys in EU markets for a range of clothing products.
The European Commission has released a draft list of products that may in future attract retaliatory duties

The European Commission has released a draft list of products that may in future attract retaliatory duties

The European Union (EU) has warned it is prepared to impose temporary safeguard duties on imports of US-made apparel and textiles, as part of its response to American duties on aluminium and steel imports.

The EU executive, the European Commission, has released a draft list of products that may in future attract retaliatory duties. It will be open for consultation until 26 March, in case new tariffs would do harm to EU businesses, as well as restricting US exports. Having received comments, the Commission will almost certainly slim down this list, before offering to hold 30 days of talks with the US about its metal duties.

If these do not lead to an agreement, the Commission may scrap special low or zero duty market access that the US enjoys in EU markets for a range of clothing products – including woollen and cotton T-shirts, singlets and other vests; jeans; cotton shorts; industrial and occupational trousers; and men's footwear with leather uppers. This could happen within 90 days of the talks failing.

Looking ahead, if this action does not achieve the desired effect of scrapping the metal duties, this could be followed by new EU tariffs, probably on different goods. A list issued by the European Commission highlights potential duties on all kinds of trousers (for men and women); overalls; men's and boys' shirts; footwear, including those with leather and rubber uppers and rubber or plastic outer soles, and more; slippers; plus certain yarns and a limited range of fabrics. 

Reaching agreement between Brussels and Washington will not be easy, however, because the EU thinks the American duties are based on a bogus legal authorisation. The US has acted on supposed national security grounds, arguing the tariffs will boost America's metal industry and hence create a reliable domestic metal production base to build up its military. World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules allow countries to protect their economies under national security grounds.

EU trade Commissioner Cecelia Malmström, however, has said this justification for action is false legally, because the EU would not stop exporting metal to the US to starve its defence manufacturers of materials.

As a result, the Commission has concluded the metal duties are an "economic safeguard measure in disguise, not a national security measure", which means the EU thinks it can "use the WTO safeguard agreement to rebalance benefits that we have given to the US in the past", she argued.

EU tariff concessions to the US could be suspended on the following apparel and footwear products:

DescriptionAdditional duty
61091000T-shirts, singlets and other vests of cotton, knitted or crocheted25%
61099020T-shirts, singlets and other vests of wool or fine animal hair or man-made fibres, knitted or crocheted25%
61099090T-shirts, singlets and other vests of textile materials, knitted or crocheted (excl. of wool, fine animal hair, cotton or man-made fibres)25%
62034231Men's or boys' trousers and breeches of cotton denim (excl. knitted or crocheted, industrial and occupational, bib and brace overalls and underpants)25%
62034290Men's or boys' shorts of cotton (excl. knitted or crocheted, swimwear and underpants)25%
62034311Men's or boys' trousers and breeches of synthetic fibres, industrial and occupational (excl. knitted or crocheted and bib and brace overalls)25%
62046231Women's or girls' cotton denim trousers and breeches (excl. industrial and occupational, bib and brace overalls and panties)25%
62046290Women's or girls' cotton shorts (excl. knitted or crocheted, panties and swimwear)25%
64035995Men's footwear with outer soles and uppers of leather, with in-soles of >= 24 cm in length25%
62034211Men's or boys' industrial and occupational trousers and breeches of cotton (excl. knitted or crocheted and bib and brace overalls)50%
62034233Men's or boys' trousers and breeches of cotton cut corduroy (excl. knitted or crocheted, industrial and occupational, bib and brace overalls and underpants)50%
62034235Men's or boys' trousers and breeches of cotton (excl. denim, cut corduroy, knitted or crocheted, industrial and occupational, bib and brace overalls and underpants)50%
62034251Men's or boys' bib and brace overalls, of cotton, industrial and occupational (excl. knitted or crocheted)50%
62034259Men's or boys' bib and brace overalls, of cotton (excl. knitted or crocheted, industrial and occupational)50%
62034319Men's or boys' trousers and breeches of synthetic fibres (excl. knitted or crocheted, industrial and occupational, bib and brace overalls and underpants)50%
62034331Men's or boys' bib and brace overalls of synthetic fibres, industrial and occupational (excl. knitted or crocheted) 50%
62034339 Men's or boys' bib and brace overalls of synthetic fibres (excl. knitted or crocheted, and industrial and occupational)50%
62034390Men's or boys' shorts of synthetic fibres (excl. knitted or crocheted, underpants and swimwear)50%
62046211Women's or girls' trousers and breeches of cotton, industrial and occupational (excl. knitted or crocheted and bib and brace overalls)50%
62046233Women's or girls' trousers and breeches of cotton cut corduroy (excl. industrial and occupational, bib and brace overalls and panties)50%
62046239Women's or girls' trousers and breeches, of cotton (not of cut corduroy, of denim or knitted or crocheted and excl.industrial and occupational clothing, bib and brace overalls, briefs and tracksuit bottoms)50%
62046251Women's or girls' bib and brace overalls, of cotton, industrial and occupational (excl. knitted or crocheted)50%
62046259Women's or girls' cotton bib and brace overalls (excl. knitted or crocheted, industrial and occupational)50%
62053000Men's or boys' shirts of man-made fibres (excl. knitted or crocheted, nightshirts, singlets and other vests)50%
64021900Sports footwear with outer soles and uppers of rubber or plastics (excl. waterproof footwear of heading 6401, ski- boots, cross-country ski footwear, snowboard boots and skating boots with ice or roller skates attached)25%
64029910Footwear with uppers of rubber and outer soles of rubber or plastics (excl. covering the ankle or with upper straps or thongs assembled to the sole by means of plugs, waterproof footwear of heading 6401, sports footwear, orthopaedic footwear and toy footwear)50%
64029931Footwear with uppers of plastic and outer soles of rubber or plastics, with a vamp made of straps or which has one or several pieces cut out, with a maximum sole and heel height of > 3 cm (excl. with upper straps or thongs assembled to the sole by means of plugs)25%
64029939Footwear with uppers of plastic and outer soles of rubber or plastics, with a vamp made of straps or which has one or several pieces cut out, with a maximum sole and heel height of <= 3 cm (excl. with upper straps or thongs assembled to the sole by means of plugs)25%
64029950Slippers and other indoor footwear, with outer sole and upper of rubber or plastics (excl. covering the ankle, footwear with a vamp made of straps or which has one or several pieces cut out, and toy footwear)25%
64029991Footwear with uppers of plastics and outer soles of rubber or plastics, with in-soles of a length of < 24 cm (excl. covering the ankle, footwear with a vamp made of straps or which has one or several pieces cut out, footwear incorporating a protective metal toecap, indoor footwear, sports footwear, waterproof footwear of heading 6401, orthopaedic footwear and toy footwear)25%
64029993Footwear non-identifiable as men's or women's footwear, with uppers of plastics, with outer soles of rubber or plastics, with in-soles of length >= 24 cm (excl. footwear covering the ankle, with a vamp made of straps or which has one or more pieces cut out, or incorporating a protective metal toecap, indoor or sports footwear, waterproof footwear in heading 6401, and orthopaedic footwear)25%
64029996Footwear with outer soles of rubber or plastics and uppers of plastics, with in-soles of a length >= 24 cm, for men (excl. footwear covering the ankle, with a vamp made of straps or which has one or more pieces cut out, or incorporating a protective metal toecap, indoor or sports footwear, waterproof footwear in heading 6401, orthopaedic footwear and footwear which cannot be identified as men's or women's)25%
64029998Footwear with outer soles of rubber or of plastics and uppers of plastics, with in-soles of a length of >= 24 cm, for women (excl. footwear covering the ankle, with a vamp made of straps or which has one or more pieces cut out, or incorporating a protective metal toecap, indoor or sports footwear, waterproof footwear in heading 6401, orthopaedic footwear and footwear which cannot be identified as men's or women's)25%
64035905Footwear with outer soles and uppers of leather, made on a base or platform of wood, with neither an inner sole nor a protective metal toecap (excl. covering the ankle)25%
64035911Footwear with outer soles and uppers of leather, with a vamp made of straps or which has one or several pieces cut out, with a maximum sole and heel height of > 3 cm (excl. with uppers which consist of leather straps across the instep and around the big toe)25%
64035931Footwear with outer soles and uppers of leather, with a vamp made of straps or which has one or several pieces cut out, with a maximum sole and heel height of <= 3 cm, with in-soles of < 24 cm in length (excl. with uppers which consist of leather straps across the instep and around the big toe, and toy footwear)25%
64035935Men's footwear with outer soles and uppers of leather, with a vamp made of straps or which has one or several pieces cut out, with a maximum sole and heel height of <= 3 cm, with in-soles of >= 24 cm in length (excl. with uppers which consist of leather straps across the instep and around the big toe)25%
64035939Women's footwear with outer soles and uppers of leather, with a vamp made of straps or which has one or several pieces cut out, with a maximum sole and heel height of <= 3 cm, with in-soles of >= 24 cm in length (excl. with uppers which consist of leather straps across the instep and around the big toe)25%
64035950Slippers and other indoor footwear, with outer soles and uppers of leather (excl. covering the ankle, with a vamp or upper made of straps, and toy footwear)25%
64035991Footwear with outer soles and uppers of leather, with in-soles of < 24 cm in length (excl. covering the ankle, incorporating a protective metal toecap, made on a base or platform of wood, without in-soles, with a vamp or upper made of straps, indoor footwear, sports footwear, orthopaedic footwear, and toy footwear)25%
64035999Women's footwear with outer soles and uppers of leather, with in-soles of >= 24 cm in length (excl. covering the ankle, incorporating a protective metal toecap, made on a base or platform of wood, without in-soles, with a vamp or upper made of straps, indoor footwear, sports footwear, and orthopaedic footwear)25%