BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union is ready to retaliate against the U.S. over President Donald Trump's proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, the bloc's top trade official said Wednesday.
Trump has long railed against what he deems unfair trade practices by China and others, and last week declared that his government would levy penalties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports. The tariffs, he said, would remain for "a long period of time," but it was not clear if certain trading partners would be exempt.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem told reporters in Brussels that Trump's rationale appears to invoke the international legal right to protect national security.
"We have serious doubts about that justification. We cannot see how the European Union, friends and allies in NATO, can be a threat to international security in the U.S.," she said.
"From what we understand, the motivation of the U.S. is an economic safeguard measure in disguise, not a national security measure," Malmstroem added.
She said that Trump's motives do not appear compatible with World Trade Organization rules and that this means the EU can activate safeguards to protect its own markets.
Malmstroem confirmed that the EU's counter-measures would include tariffs on U.S. steel and agricultural products, as well as other products like bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries and orange juice. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said that Harley Davidson motorcycles and Levis jeans would also be hit.
The list is being circulated among EU member states for approval.
"The situation is serious," Germany's economy minister said Wednesday in Berlin.
Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said the EU will "be ready to react appropriately. However, it is our goal to avoid a trade war."
Zypries said in a statement she hopes Trump will change his mind regarding slapping tariffs on steel imports.
She said, "trade creates wealth, when it is based on exchange and cooperation" and added, referring indirectly to the surprise resignation of Trump's top economic adviser Gary Cohn Tuesday, that, "advocates for this in the U.S. administration are very important. Therefore the current signals from the U.S. make me worried."