Skip to main content

European Union Hits US With Sweeping Tariffs on Apparel and Footwear

The European Union has long been promising it would retaliate in the face of any punitive tariffs from the United States, and this week, that promise was kept.

Just after President Trump moved to eliminate an exemption on steel and aluminum tariffs for the Mexico, Canada and the EU, the European Commission endorsed a decision to impose additional duties on a long list of U.S. products—apparel and textiles included.

The EU’s effort to “rebalance duties” comes in line with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, according to the Commission, and as such, it will hit back with duties on 2.8 billion euros ($3.3 billion) worth of U.S. products, to start. In three years, if there hasn’t been a positive finding to the EU’s dispute settlement with the WTO over the U.S. tariffs, then an addition 3.6 billion euros ($4.2 billion) worth of goods will be targeted.

“This is a measured and proportionate response to the unilateral and illegal decision taken by the United States to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminium exports. What’s more, the EU’s reaction is fully in line with international trade law,” EU commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström said.

The long list of products to face new duties includes a substantial amount of apparel and footwear. And the new duties come in addition to whatever has already been in place.

For one, T-shirts made of cotton, wool or other textile materials, knitted or crocheted, will face 25 percent duties, meaning any EU importer hoping to bring in the product from the U.S., will have to pay 25 percent more for it—a fact that could substantially cut back U.S. exports to the EU.

Men’s, boy’s, women’s and girl’s cotton denim trousers and cotton shorts will be subject to 25 percent duties, as well men’s or boy’s synthetic trousers. U.S. cotton bedlinen will also cost 25 percent more to import into the EU. When it comes to shoes, men’s footwear with leather outer soles and uppers will face the 25 percent tariff too.

Apart from apparel and footwear, an overwhelming majority of steel products will get the same 25 percent duty the U.S. has levied on steel imports from the EU, and corn, rice, peanut butter, bourbon and tobacco, will also get hit with the additional 25 percent tariff.

The new tariffs will take effect beginning in July.

Though the Commission has agreed to continue engaging with the U.S. on other trade-related matters, including trilateral talks with Japan, where tariffs are concerned, Malmström said, “We regret that the United States left us with no other option than to safeguard EU interests.”