Published: Mon, March 12, 2018

U.S. eases way to more tariff exemptions under pressure By

U.S. eases way to more tariff exemptions under pressure By

President Donald Trump's announcement of duties of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminium has stung the European Union, along with other major partners including Japan, whose Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko also attended the talks in Brussels.

Mr Trump said last Friday that he was working on a security agreement with Australia that would exempt the country from planned tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

"It's really an assault on our country", he blasted, announcing the tariffs on the metals used in everything from cars to construction, roads to railways. "I've been talking about this a long time, a lot longer than my political career".

"Negotiations to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement have, by all accounts, not gone well since they began a year ago", the Conference Board of Canada report said.

Trump says his steel and aluminum tariffs meet that standard because the United States has lost so many manufacturing jobs - 4.6 million just since 2000. Japan's steel industry body also expressed concern. China, Germany, Brazil, etc. specifically make steel to export - not for their own use. Trump temporarily exempted its North American neighbours, Canada and Mexico, from the newest measures.

Canada and Mexico were already granted exemptions, although Trump has hinted that he will cancel them if NAFTA renegotiation talks don't make progress soon.

The rollout has left countries confused about their chances at getting onto the no-tariff list, and in at least one case, that of Australia, the deed seemed to have been accomplished with a phone call from the country's prime minister to Trump.

Mr Ciobo said that "we are in choppy waters" in terms of the global trade environment.

European Commissioner Malmstrom, who coordinates policy for the 28-nation EU, the world's biggest trading bloc, said she stood ready to go to the WTO, the worldwide trade arbiter, to impose the bloc's own safeguards within 90 days. He said American exports that the European Union has considered imposing as retaliation total some $3.5 billion.

The European Commission had already warned on Wednesday that if the United States went ahead with its plan, it would retaliate with increased tariffs on American goods such as Bourbon whiskey, Levis jeans, Florida orange juice and peanut butter.

Aluminum producers' association European Aluminum called for an "immediate" implementation of measures if necessary.

There were mixed messages from the White House surrounding if and when Trump would sign the tariffs.

In Beijing, China's Commerce Ministry said on Friday it "resolutely opposed" the tariffs and that they would "seriously impact the normal order of worldwide trade".

"The discussions have led many observers to speculate that the Trump administration will withdraw from the 24-year-old deal".

The move also sparked the resignation of top economic advisor Gary Cohn in protest.

Trump's declaration coincided with the signing by 11 countries of a new Trans-Pacific trade pact that the United States withdrew from previous year.

However, stock markets in Asia rallied as traders said the tariffs could have been worse.

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