Trump tariffs: Europe releases list of retaliation targets

Last Updated Mar 16, 2018 4:41 PM EDT

European nations want exemptions from proposed tariffs on the steel and aluminum they export to the United States. And they're ready to fight back if they have to pay. 

On Friday, the European Union made public a 10-page list of possible targets. The extensive lineup includes an array of agricultural products, including rice and tobacco, automobiles and motorcycles, whiskey, paper products, shoes and blue jeans.

President Donald Trump first announced plans to impose sweeping tariffs on March 1, and later said he would exempt Canada and Mexico while the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was being negotiated. 

He also said other countries could apply for exemptions, but it's unclear which counties will ultimately pay. 

The EU list was published for procedural reasons, and was therefore made public without a press release."Our focus is still on potential exemption, so no statements for the moment," an EU spokesperson explained in an email.  

The EU list includes politically charged targets, including bourbon, a key product of Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Harley-Davidson, based in Wisconsin, where House Speaker Paul Ryan resides.

"There is a lot of politics involved here. How do you get the attention of key members of Congress, well you attack the economic interests in their home states," Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told CBS MoneyWatch. "There's no doubt the big ones are Harley-Davidson and bourbon, they go after the speaker and majority leader."  

The EU has said that it is not looking to inflame a trade war, saying it would abide by World Trade Organization rules. 

"To avoid exacerbating matters, the EU response must be firm, but proportionate and stay in line with international law," a news release issued earlier this week by Members of the European Parliament said.

After meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Brussels earlier this week, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom tweeted: "As a close security and trade partner of the United States, the European Union must be excluded from the announced measures. No immediate clarity on the exact U.S. procedure for exemption however, so discussions will continue next week."

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and  Malmstrom agreed to meet next week to discuss the issue further.

"The bottom line is still that if Donald Trump really had the best interests of American workers at heart, he wouldn't try to protect steel workers, because there aren't that many of them, or about 104,000," said Kirkegaard. "But there are millions of American workers that rely on steel. so this is a recipe for seeing more job losses in steel-and-aluminum using industries."