Trump keeps allies guessing on steel tariffs as deadline looms
May 01 2018
Facing a self-imposed deadline, Trump is considering whether to permanently exempt the European Union and five other countries from tariffs that his administration imposed last month on imported steel and aluminum.
In Malmstrom's latest telephone conversation with Ross, Malmstom rejected Ross' demand for a voluntarily limit of European Union steel and aluminum exports to the United States of 90 percent of the average 2016-17 level. "So in order for the exemptions to be extended or made permanent, a new proclamation would have to come from us like the original ones did". Ross is set to discuss the issue Monday with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.
The European Union last week asked to join a case, starting with consultations, that was initiated by China at the World Trade Organization over the USA steel and aluminum tariffs.
The EU has also said it's prepared to apply retaliatory tariffs on $3.5 billion of imports from the US, ranging from orange juice to blue jeans.
A deadline for exemptions to USA steel and aluminum tariffs to expire loomed on Monday but US allies and metals producers were still in the dark whether any countries would get extended relief, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying President Donald Trump had not yet made a decision.
The EU tariffs would hit USA consumer, agricultural and steel products in many key Republican constituencies, putting pressure on Trump ahead of crucial midterm elections in November. Security relationships with the USA have also been part of the criteria. Chief Executive Officer Mike Bless, leading the second-largest US aluminum producer, echoed the Commerce Department's original recommendations to the president that said all imports must be subject to either quotas or tariffs.
Some countries were then exempted temporarily from those tariffs, including Canada, the European Union and Mexico.
"We've been having lots of discussions internally, we've been having lots of discussions with our counterparts", he said, adding: "We're addressing these issues real time". She has insisted on a permanent exemption without conditions. The White House also wants China to agree to reduce its $375 billion goods trade surplus with the U.S.
A White House official said the only thing that could stop the tariffs from being imposed on Canada now is a new presidential order. "The president has not made any decision yet", Mnuchin said in an interview on Fox Business Network.
In addition to Mnuchin, Lighthizer, Ross and Navarro, the group will include economic adviser Larry Kudlow, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad and Everett Eissenstat, deputy assistant to the president for International Economic Affairs.
Most analysts, however, think it's unlikely the talks will reach permanent agreements and will more likely mark the start of longer-term negotiations.