Europe said to be close to exemption on US tariffs


BRUSSELS • The European Union (EU) believes it’s on track to be exempted from imminent US tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium, dialing down the risk of a trans-Atlantic trade war.

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom ended two days of talks in Washington with the hope of a US pledge to exclude the EU from the import duties of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium, four EU officials said yesterday on the condition of anonymity. The levies initially were set to take effect tomorrow.

“Malmstrom had a good, very fruitful visit to Washington,” commission VP Jyrki Katainen said in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday. “We have good opportunities now to solve the issue and stabilise, or calm down, the problem.”

The upbeat assessment came as the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, briefed ambassadors from the bloc’s 28 national governments about the issue in Brussels.

President Donald Trump earlier this month announced the protectionist measures on national-security grounds, signalled Canada, Mexico and Australia would be excluded and gave his top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, scope to work out exemptions for more countries by March 23.

Not exempt is China, which may also face an additional US$50 billion (RM195.72 billion) of US tariffs over intellectual-property violations, a person familiar with that matter said. The EU expected the Trump administration to make an announcement later yesterday about an exclusion for the bloc from the metal tariffs, two of the European officials said.

The EU has been scrambling for a waiver while warning that a failure to gain one would lead to a tit-for-tat response on €2.8 billion (RM13.69 billion) of imports of US goods.

The EU also said that, without an exemption, it would file a complaint to the World Trade Organisation against the Trump administration and introduce “safeguard” measures to prevent metal shipments from other parts of the world to America from being diverted to the European market and flooding it.