Top EU, US trade officials meet on tariffs

Elias Hubbard
March 11, 2018

Mr Trump justified his move by invoking a rarely used U.S. law authorising presidential action against imports that undermine national security.

The EU's trade commissioner says there is "no immediate clarity" from the U.S. on how the bloc can gain exemption from new tariffs on imported steel and aluminium imposed by President Trump.

She said she got "no immediate clarity on the exact US procedure for exemption" and that new talks are planned for next week.

"As a close security and trade partner of the USA, the European Union must be excluded from the announced measures", Malmstrom, the 28-nation bloc's trade commissioner, said in a tweet after a meeting with the U.S.'s top trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer.

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier said he expects countries in addition to Mexico and Canada to be exempted in the next couple of weeks.

Brian Peck, director of the Center for Transnational Law and Business at the University of Southern California, said the executive order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from foreign countries will "have a significant negative impact on American consumers and the economy".

Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said he had expressed Japanese concern to Lighthizer and warned of major market disruption.

"We call for calm-headed behaviour", Mr Seko added.

Top EU trade officials will hold crunch talks with their US counterparts in Brussels today hoping to get "clarity" on US President Donald Trump's controversial new steel and aluminium tariffs.

"He only explained the schedule and the procedures", he said.

"If there is a violation, then we will seek consultations".

Japan, the United States' top economic and military ally in Asia, is among the other nations seeking to join the exemption list.

Lighthizer did not make any immediate comment after the meetings.

Trade tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen since Trump took office previous year.

European trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom met USA trade envoy Robert Lighthizer in Brussels on Saturday for what she described as "frank" discussions which "brought no immediate clarity". Time after time at the WTO trade negotiations the European Union has dragged its feet and in sectors such as cars or agriculture maintained higher tariffs than its own exporters enjoy.

While carrying a message to Washington to push forward a diplomatic breakthrough over North Korea, South Korea's national security office chief Chung Eui-yong asked U.S. officials to support Seoul's request for a waiver, a presidential spokesman said. "We are talking about unilateral action against worldwide rules".

The US president's plan would affect European Union steel exports, valued at €5.3 billion and aluminium exports worth €1.1 billion previous year, and has opened the door to the prospect of an imminent transatlantic trade war.

It has already started monitoring incoming metal flows to see whether a surge occurs. Brussels has reminded Trump that tit-for-tat trade measures deepened the Great Depression in the 1930s and in the 2000s cost thousands of USA jobs when Washington imposed tariffs on European steel. Under World Trade Organization rules, such counter-measures have to be in place within 90 days of the USA tariffs entering force.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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