By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union has agreed to a partial truce with the United States in a dispute over metal tariffs imposed by former president Donald Trump and to start discussions on global overcapacity and China's "trade-distorting" policies.
The European Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, said on Monday it would suspend a planned hike of retaliatory tariffs for up to six months. These would have added U.S. products from lipstick to sports shoes and doubled to 50% duties on U.S. bourbon whiskey, motorbikes and motor boats on June 1.
In a joint statement, Brussels and Washington said that, as allies and market-based economies, they could promote high standards, address shared concerns "and hold countries like China that support trade-distorting policies to account".
The discussions would seek solutions before the end of the year to the issue of global steel and aluminium overcapacity, though a Commission official said a resolution of the tariff dispute should come much sooner.
A month ahead of a visit to Brussels by U.S. President Joe Biden, one EU diplomat said it would have been "terrible optics" if the bloc had raised tariffs on Harley Davidson bikes and products of other U.S. firms.
Bernd Lange, head of the trade committee of the European Parliament, said the United States needed to come to a EU-U.S. summit with a "tangible commitment to reciprocate the EU gesture. Otherwise, tariff hikes would be justified.
U.S. METAL TARIFFS STAY
The United States will maintain its tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium, which also apply to imports from China, India, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey.
The Trump administration cited U.S. national security grounds as the basis for its metals tariffs - measures that steelmakers such as Thyssenkrupp and Voestalpine have said they were affected by.
The EU denied that its exports pose any security threat and responded by placing its own tariffs on 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) of U.S. products, including motorbikes, whiskey and orange juice. These will also remain in place.
However, the suspension of further tariffs was greeted as a step in the right direction by European Aluminium, the U.S. Distilled Spirits Council and Harley Davidson, whose shares rose more than 6% to a three-year high.
The American Iron and Steel Institute said it hoped U.S.-EU discussions could work towards substantive solutions, while maintaining trade measures. It also said China was not the sole cause of overcapacity and that import surges had come from every region.
The EU had urged the United States to suspend the metals tariffs for six months, mirroring the four-month suspension the two sides agreed in March in their aircraft subsidy dispute.
The Commission has said the U.S. tariffs affect 6.4 billion euros of EU metal exports and that it would "rebalance" the remaining 3.6 billion euros after three years, or after a favourable ruling by the World Trade Organization.
Those three years expire were to expire in June. Its challenge at the WTO is ongoing.
($1 = 0.8221 euros)
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; David Lawder, Andrea Shalal in Washington, Kanishka Singh and Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru;Editing by John Chalmers, Giles Elgood and Barbara Lewis)
Marjorie Clifton, a former consultant for the Obama campaign, derailed a Fox News segment on Monday by reminding host Harris Faulkner that former President Donald Trump had dangerously suggested ingesting bleach to cure COVID-19.
Clifton's remarks came during a Fox News segment that criticized President Joe Biden over a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation that permits vaccinated people to go without a mask in public places.
"Why can't this administration get on one message that works?" Faulkner asked Clifton.
"Because I don't think there's one message that anyone will adopt," Clifton replied. "Because all of those that said over time we don't want to have masks anymore now have been given permission to shed their masks and yet they're critics."
"I think, unfortunately, in the current day political environment there's never going to be a winning strategy, there's never going to be a one-size-fits-all policy around it," she added.
"But that's not what he sold America," Faulkner scoffed.
"That's what news is apparently thriving on these days," Clifton observed. "Because that's all we've talked about so far."
"What about science?" the Fox News host shot back.
"And the CDC's policies they put forward is based on science," Clifton said. "If you're vaccinated, you don't have to wear a mask. If you aren't then you should. So that's science. Yet we're criticizing that right now."
"You've got to tell us the truth," Faulkner said, ignoring Clifton's point. "It's more facts, less policy."
"Like drinking bleach?" Clifton interrupted.
"Oh, God," Faulkner remarked. "Not funny."
Watch the video below from Fox News.
As it has for decades, Israel has counted on the United States as a diplomatic shield in its latest crisis. But once unwavering US support is looking increasingly precarious as calls grow on the left to advance Palestinian rights.
With violence that has killed more than 200 people, mostly Palestinians, entering a second week, Israel has emerged as rarely before as a partisan issue in Washington with members of former president Donald Trump's Republican Party boasting of unstinting backing of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The line of President Joe Biden has been consistent with previous Democratic administrations -- no public daylight with Israel but diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring calm.
Biden's approach has won praise from Israel but few other places.
Even Senator Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee seen as a reliably pro-Israel Democratic voice, said Saturday he was "deeply troubled" by Israeli strikes on Gaza that killed civilians and destroyed media offices, calling for "a full accounting."
Senator Bernie Sanders, Biden's main challenger from the left for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, has called the devastation "unconscionable" and, in a threat once taboo in Washington, said Sunday that the United States should take a "hard look" at the nearly $4 billion in military aid it provides each year to Israel.
Israel has historically enjoyed support from the Democrats, owing in part to the party's status as the favored home for American Jews and Israel's socialist roots.
But Sanders and other US progressives have come to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the prism of broader movements for social justice, especially as Netanyahu clings to power through an alliance with the far-right.
In a New York Times opinion piece, Sanders wrote that Netanyahu has "cultivated an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian type of racist nationalism" and ended with the line: "Palestinian lives matter."
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the highest-profile progressive Democrats, urged action against Israeli "apartheid" -- a term that infuriates Israel but was recently backed by Human Rights Watch, which said it was government policy to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians.
"The president and many other figures this week stated that Israel has a right to self-defense," Ocasio-Cortez said on the House floor Thursday.
"But do Palestinians have a right to survive? Do we believe that? And if so, we have a responsibility to that."
- Biden at odds with party -
Israel launched the offensive after Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, began firing rockets into the Jewish state in what it said was a response to Israeli moves in Jerusalem.
Logan Bayroff of J Street, a progressive pro-Israel group, said there was a growing recognition that Israeli actions including moves to evict Palestinian families in east Jerusalem contributed to the crisis.
"You're seeing much more willingness across a wide spectrum of the Democratic Party to criticize not just Hamas rockets -- and Hamas is involved in this -- but also Israeli government policy," said Bayroff, the group's vice president of communications.
"That forms a pretty strong contrast with how the Biden administration unfortunately seems to be on a different page in a way that frankly has not been adequate to the severity of the crisis," he said.
The Biden administration has not explicitly called for a ceasefire and has so far blocked a statement at the UN Security Council three times in a week, saying it could be counterproductive.
Bayroff said the shift in opinion was also due to Netanyahu's "disrespect" for the last Democratic president, Barack Obama, with the Israeli leader openly rallying Republicans against a denuclearization accord with Iran.
Americans overwhelmingly still see Israel positively, according to a Gallup survey in February, but 34 percent called for more pressure on Israel to resolve the conflict, the highest since the question was asked in 2007.
In a Pew poll this year, more than half of American Jews gave negative marks to Netanyahu and nearly two-thirds voiced optimism about coexistence with a Palestinian state.
Hawkish support for Israel comes largely not from American Jews but from the Christian right, where some see Biblical justifications to promote the Jewish state.
One Republican, Senator Todd Young, has joined calls for a ceasefire but much of the party has either accused Biden of insufficent support of Israel or accused left-wing Democrats of siding with Hamas, designated by Washington as a terrorist group.
"There is no moral equivalency between Israel and Hamas," said House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, pledging, "The United States unequivocally stands with our ally Israel and the Jewish people."
© 2021 AFP
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