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Macron talks to Trump, says new U.S. tariffs are illegal and a mistake

Macron talks to Trump, says new U.S. tariffs are illegal and a mistake
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a conference in Paris on May 31. (Christophe Petit-Tesson / Associated Press)

French President Emmanuel Macron has told President Trump that the new U.S. tariffs on European, Mexican and Canadian goods are illegal and a "mistake."

Macron's office said in a statement Friday that the two presidents spoke by phone after the Trump administration announced the decision Thursday to impose a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum.

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The European Union is planning retaliatory tariffs on U.S. steel and food goods in the coming weeks, once it calculates the U.S. tariffs’ exact cost to EU companies. Macron pledged the response would be "firm" and "proportionate" and in line with World Trade Organization rules.

The U.S. decision came despite last-minute talks in Paris this week to try to reach a deal.

As its first step to challenge the U.S. tariffs, the EU on Friday formally filed a request for consultations at the WTO.

The two sides will discuss the matter and try to reach a deal. If that fails to solve the matter, after 60 days the EU can ask a WTO panel to rule on the case.

The EU's trade chief, Cecilia Malmstrom, said the U.S. decision to impose tariffs "is further weakening the Trans-Atlantic relations."

She said the measures "will cause a lot of damage to our steel and aluminum industry" and risk hurting global economic growth.

She dismissed the Trump administration's argument that the tariffs are needed for U.S. national security reasons.

"Internal security is not relevant. It is pure protectionism," she said.

Companies around the world have expressed concern about the tariffs and the risk that they could escalate into a trade war in which both sides hit each other with tit-for-tat measures.

Germany's Volkswagen, Europe's largest automaker, said no side would win a trade war.

In a statement to the Associated Press, the company said it views the tariffs with "regret and concern."

"There are fears that this marks the start of a negative spiral of measures and countermeasures where there will ultimately be no winners," the company said.

The Wolfsburg-based company is calling for dialogue between the U.S. and the EU within recognized WTO principles "in order to prevent any long-term economic damage."

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