LONDON (Reuters) -Wine, chocolate and lobsters imported into Britain from the United States could face new tariffs under proposals from the British government to rebalance the list of goods it targets as part of an ongoing trade conflict around steel and aluminium.
The administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump introduced 25% and 10% tariffs on steel and aluminium imports citing national security concerns, prompting retaliatory measures from the European Union on goods such as motorcycles, whiskey and tobacco.
Britain incorporated those into its new independent tariff system when it completed its exit from the EU at the end of 2020, but is now reviewing the list of products to help protect UK-specific interests.
“Today’s announcement will help ensure these measures are tailored to the needs of the UK economy and shaped to defend industries across the UK, including steel and aluminium manufacturers,” the trade ministry said in a statement.
Customs data show Britain imported 133,512 tonnes of wine from the United States last year, worth 224 million pounds ($316.58 million). Britain currently imports more lobsters from the United States than it exports.
Chocolate imports were worth 31 million pounds.
The list, which did not show proposed tariff rates, was published as part of a six-week consultation with businesses and other stakeholders.
Trade minister Liz Truss has already sought to use Britain’s independence from the EU’s common tariff policy as both a diplomatic and economic tool. Last week, she opened applications for a tariff suspension programme with a promise to help manufacturers lower costs.
Britain’s stated preference is to de-escalate the dispute with the United States and find a negotiated solution that removes tariffs on both sides. If successful, the proposed list would never be implemented.
The trade department said Truss and her U.S. counterpart have so far had productive discussions on the matter, but Britain maintains that the current U.S. tariffs that initiated the dispute are against World trade Organisation rules and without foundation.
“The UK will do whatever is necessary to protect our steel industry against illegal tariffs that could undermine British industry and damage our businesses,” Truss said in a statement.
($1 = 0.7076 pounds)
(Reporting by Andy Bruce and William James, Editing by Paul Sandle and Bernadette Baum)