European Union hoping for clarity from USA trade talks in Brussels

12 March, 2018, 10:13 | Author: Elena Meyer
  • Gary Cohn the former Goldman Sachs president who has quit as Donald Trump’s top economic adviser

In his speech Saturday in Pennsylvania - historically a major steel-producing state, but which has lost thousands of jobs to mechanization and foreign competition - Trump said that European Union countries "kill us on trade".

The EU's trade commissioner says there is "no immediate clarity" from the USA on how the bloc can gain exemption from new tariffs on imported steel and aluminium imposed by President Trump. Numerous measures would raise tariffs on US products from politically sensitive areas, such as the home districts of congressional leaders, and would range from motorcycles to bourbon to peanut butter. "Big Deficit. If not, we Tax Cars etc. FAIR!"

Freeland is coming off a tense week which started with the seventh round of NAFTA negotiations making little progress towards an agreement but ended with a sigh of relief when Canada and Mexico secured an exemption from new US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Europe's trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom described talks with Lighthizer as "frank" and said they had not brought clarity on the exemption procedure.

Media captionUS tariffs: What do we need to know?

In announcing the measures, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker taunted Trump, saying the EU could match "stupid with stupid".

Mr Trump said the tariffs, which will come into effect after 15 days, will not initially apply to Canada and Mexico. Trump said in his tweet.

The problem of global overcapacity in the production of steel and aluminium will not be solved by countering tarifs with more tariffs - whether it's on Harley-Davidsons or Jim Beam bourbon.

"So, I think these people are all crying Chicken Little", he said. They will benefit steel and aluminum producers by raising metals prices.

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Lighthizer was expected to be in Brussels this weekend for meetings with European officials. A joint statement from the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates said: "It is dismaying that the voices of farmers and many other industries were ignored in favor of an industry that is already among the most protected in the country".

With tensions at a peak, the European Union had sought to keep low expectations for any breakthrough on Saturday.

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

Germany - singled out for particular criticism by Trump - accused Washington of protectionism, calling the tariffs an "affront to close partners".

Malmstrom won support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He also added Australia to the list of likely carve-outs.

The Moon Jae-in government vows to persuade the Trump administration to give an exemption to Korea as it did to Canada, Mexico and Australia.

In the White House speech, and in recent days, President Trump has taken particular aim at China - saying the U.S. is losing out because of a $500bn trade deficit with China, which he also mentioned during a 5 March speech.

A recent study by Trade Partnership, a Washington, D.C. -based consulting firm, also estimated that Trump's new tariff on steel and aluminum would result in a net loss of 146,000 after accounting for positive impacts on USA steel and aluminum producers.

Brussels is also looking at "safeguard" measures to protect its industry - restricting the bloc's imports of steel and aluminum to stop foreign supplies flooding the European market, which is allowed under World Trade Organization rules.



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