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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Slams Europe Over Protectionism Hypocrisy

PARIS -- Sparring over U.S. steel tariffs and farm subsidies spilled into the open at an international meeting in Paris on Thursday when a U.S. official bluntly told Europe to clean up its own act rather than complain about others.

"I would just urge the Europeans to stop their protectionist stand and look at their own policies, which are the problem," Andrew Natsios of the U.S. Agency for International Development, an official body, said.

He was speaking as a second day of talks started among trade and finance ministers from the 30 mainly industrialized countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development at its headquarters in Paris.

The annual OECD meeting was overshadowed Wednesday by anger from many delegates over U.S. steel duties and U.S. approval of a farm bill that will pump billions of dollars of subsidies into agriculture.

"Grave concerns were expressed about a return to protectionism in the last few months," Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, chairman of the OECD meeting, told a news conference Wednesday.

The response from Natsios, who attended the meetings with U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Peter Allgeier and White House economic adviser Glenn Hubbard, left little doubt about the hard line being adopted by Washington.

"I think there's a little hypocrisy in arguing that our subsidies are a problem," he said. "If the Europeans would reform their subsidies we'd certainly be willing to discuss the subject."

The trade spats have overshadowed efforts to get a new round of global trade liberalization on track and pitted the two key trading powers, the European Union and United States, against each other. EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy was due in Paris on Thursday.

He was due to confer on the current trade climate in bilateral talks with ministers from Australia and other delegations, but had no scheduled meetings with U.S. delegates. officials said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Washington's top trade negotiator, did not come to the Paris meeting.

In Tokyo, Japan joined the rising number of countries planning retaliation against the United States. The Trade Ministry said it planned to extend a package of planned countermeasures and notify them to the Geneva-based World Trade Organization, the body that polices international trade rules.