November 16, 2003
Sullivan on Tariffs

Andrew Sullivan links to a piece in the Guardian, noting how the EU is proposing selective tariffs against the US, since the WTO ruled against the American tariffs on steel, which has hit the EU particularly hard. He notes that the EU is targetting exports in key states (such as citrus fruit from Florida, and paper from Wisconsin) in an effort to influence the election. While it is a bit sleazy, I disagree with Sullivan's characterization that it is a watershed in European anti-Americanism.

It's politics. When the WTO ruled against the EU on their banana tariff a few years ago, the US imposed tariffs on imports from CERTAIN EU countries (the nations which opposed the EU tariffs, Denmark and the Netherlands, were specifically exempted). Similarly, the United Kingdom was exempt from tariff retaliation in regards to a dispute over hormone-treated beef (the other 14 EU countries all had exports that were targeted in retaliation). A link to the US Trade Representative's website with data on these two cases can be found here.

The two cases are comparable, although the effects will likely be different. Because the EU and the US government are structured differently, the result of targetted tariffs is much more likely to have an effect on the US, where states have much more autonomy and exert a greater pull on the central government. The EU is targetting certain industries in certain states, just as we did. The fact that Bush may well need these states in the upcoming election is not the EU's concern (although the anti-US types in Brussels are no doubt overjoyed at the opportunity presented to them). Bush needs to drop the tariffs, not only because of the potential for retaliation, but because it's hard to present as a free-trade advocate when one is imposing tariffs to guard one's reelection chances (which was the rationale behind the steel tariffs).

posted on November 16, 2003 11:22 PM


Are the two cases really comparable? As I understand it, the US targeted the supposed beneficiaries of EU protectionism. On the contrary, the EU is threatening to target states regardless of whether they benefited from US protectionism in order to influence the upcoming election. The latter strikes me as being morally quite different from the former.

In any event, I agree with your ultimate conclusion.

posted by Oscar Jr. on November 18, 2003 06:14 AM

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