European Union says talks 'the prime option' in U.S. tariffs row

Randolph Lopez
March 11, 2018

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said after meetings in Brussels that she got "no immediate clarity on the exact U.S. procedure for exemption", and that new talks are planned next week.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (C) European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko take part in a meeting to discuss steel overcapacity, in Brussels, Belgium March 10, 2018.

Trump signed proclamations Thursday imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, with the new taxes set to go into effect in two weeks.

European Union officials said that while they shared USA concerns about overcapacity in the steel sector, tariffs were not the answer, and stressed Europe's historic ties to the United States. But he exempted Canada and Mexico and held out the possibility of excluding other allies.

The spokesman sharply criticised the imposition of punitive tariffs by the U.S. and said European producers would suffer "significantly from the loss of one of their most important export markets". The EU wants to find out exactly what mandate he has and precisely what conditions allow exemptions, but it is ruling out any negotiations for US market access.

"As a close security and trade partner of the US the European Union must be excluded from the announced measures", she said.

Seko did not go into what conditions might allow Japan to evade tariffs and, asked if Lighthizer had brought up the US trade deficit with Japan, Seko said no.

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Japan's government has warned the measure could hurt its economic relations with the U.S. But ahead of Saturday's talks, Seko also cautioned that "falling to exchanges of unilateral measures will not be in the interest of any country", according to the Kyodo news agency.

"We expressed our concern".

Any Japanese response, he said, would be in line with World Trade Organization rules: "If there is a violation, then we will seek consultations", Seko said.

The EU exports around five billion euros' ($4 billion) worth of steel and a billion euros' worth of aluminium to the United States each year, and the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, estimates Trump's tariffs could cost some 2.8 billion euros.

"This is not a trade negotiation", he said. "Now we are talking about unilateral action against global rules, and we want to sort it out before it really becomes a problem". "It could disrupt the steel and aluminium markets of the world and have a negative impact", Mr Seko told reporters after meeting Mr Lighthizer to seek an exemption for Japanese producers.

Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen warned Washington on Friday not to expect any concessions to win an exemption.

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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