EU reiterates demand for US waiver

BRUSSELS • A top European Union (EU) official reiterated the bloc’s demand for a permanent exemption from the US’ steel and aluminium tariffs, as a temporary reprieve is set to expire on May 1 and fears mount that escalating trade tensions could threaten the global economy.

European Commission VP Valdis Dombrovskis (picture) said the EU is in close contact with US authorities to discuss trade issues, emphasising the need for a lasting solution that would see the 28-country bloc exempt from the controversial levies.

“It’s clear that EU is open to negotiate trade and it’s open to negotiate trade also with the US,” he said in an interview in Washington. “But it’s not something you can do in one or two weeks. We need a solution now” over the tariffs.

“If the US is using this legal basis of national security we don’t see how the EU could be a threat to the national security of the US,” Dombrovskis said.

Dombrovskis stressed the EU’s openness to discuss trade, and pointed to the bloc’s recent deals with Canada, Japan and Singapore. On Saturday, the EU and Mexico also struck an agreement in principle to upgrade their 18-year-old trade agreement, bolstering the bloc’s efforts to pry open global markets in the face of US protectionism.

Under the terms of the upgraded accord, “practically all trade in goods between the EU and Mexico will now be duty-free, including in the agricultural sector,” the European Commission said in a statement. The EU is seeking to wrap up a separate set of negotiations on a free-trade agreement with the Mercosur group of Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Dombrovskis said the bloc shares some of the US’ concerns on China such as on issues related to global steel overcapacity, intellectual-property practices and market openness. But he stressed that these need to be handled within an international multilateral framework, at the World Trade Organisation. “That’s why we say it’s important to refrain from unilateral moves.” — Bloomberg