European Union commissioner: We will stand up to 'trade war' bullies

The weekend before the announcement, Ottawa was getting word that Trump was heavily leaning toward including Canada, largely because of concerns steel from China was coming into the USA from Canada.

"We are anxious [about] the possibility of having a trade war between the United States and the European Union because we believe that there will be only losers". "I'm happy to work with (the United States) to do even more to ensure that diversion or other ways of getting lower-cost material unfairly onto Canadian soil is prevented in every way we can". "We believe that protectionism is a dead end". "We do disagree with the USA decision to implement tariffs on steel and aluminium imports", Fox said. He temporarily exempted big steel producers Canada and Mexico - provided they agree to renegotiate a North American trade deal to his satisfaction.

Trump said last Thursday that he was slapping tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

The EU rejects Trump's argument that the tariffs are required for national security reasons. It has threatened to slap retaliatory duties on around 2.8 billion euro (£2.4 billion) worth of U.S. steel, agricultural and other products like peanut butter and orange juice if it is not excluded from the tariff regime.

Firmly rejecting that view, the European Commission accused the USA president of "cherry-picking" data to twist what has become an increasingly fractious transatlantic debate.

The steel and aluminum tariffs won't have a major effect on Europe, which isn't a major source of either for the U.S. But along with Trump's threat to impose a 35 percent tax on European automobile imports, the tariffs have managed to provoke a retaliatory EU response.

The EU's executive body, the European Commission, handles trade talks on behalf of member countries. After the meeting, the European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom wrote in Twitter that the discussion was frank, but there is no clarity about the duty-free procedure, and next week the talks will continue. She said: "The best option would be [for the EU] to be excluded".

It also said Mr Trump was "cherry-picking" particular tariffs to highlight differences, and maintained average tariffs were very similar on each side of the Atlantic - 3 per cent for products into Europe and 2.4 per cent for those entering the United States.

But the target of Mr Trump's ire is China, whose capacity expansions have helped add to global surpluses of steel. Experts largely blame overproduction by China for that.