The European Commission Tuesday said it has notified the World Trade Organization of lists of American goods it might hit with trade sanctions in retaliation for duties the United States has imposed on steel imports.
The move is part of the formal procedure the European Commission must go through in order to eventually apply the sanctions. Before actually imposing the penalties, the commission must get the final go ahead from EU member states.
The notification was required under a WTO deadline in order for the European Union to preserve its rights in the trade dispute. The trade spokesman for the European Commission, Anthony Gooch, stresses that the EU wants to avoid retaliation against Washington.
"However, our priority, as we've made clear from the beginning, is to secure compensation. A package which could involve compensation and exemptions, which would obviate the need to resort to countermeasures, which is not and never has been our preference. But is an instrument available to us, given that compensation does not depend on us. It depends on the United States granting it," Mr. Gooch said.
President Bush in March announced tariffs up to 30 percent on steel imports to protect the suffering U.S. steel industry. Washington says the measures are justified under world trade rules. The EU says they will devastate the international steel market.
The European Commission has drawn up lists of US goods worth hundreds of millions of dollars that could be targeted by possible sanctions. The goods include citrus fruits, textiles and some steel products. The Commission says some of the measures could be applied as early as mid-June. However, it says it will not impose the sanctions if the United States offers it compensation for the steel duties with lower tariffs on other goods.