politics

Trump ‘Clarity’ on Tariff Conditions Not What EU Was Looking For

Updated on
  • Europe trade chief repeats vow for EU exemption from tariffs
  • Discussions to continue next week in Paris at OECD meeting

EU Warns of Tariff Retaliation

Hours after European Union trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said she had “no immediate clarity” on whether the bloc will be let off the hook from planned U.S. tariffs, President Donald Trump laid down his conditions and repeated a threat if they’re not met.

“The European Union, wonderful countries who treat the U.S. very badly on trade, are complaining about the tariffs on Steel & Aluminum,” he wrote on Twitter. “If they drop their horrific barriers & tariffs on U.S. products going in, we will likewise drop ours. Big Deficit. If not, we Tax Cars etc. FAIR!"

Trump’s response came after Malmstrom on Twitter described what she called “frank” but fruitless talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Brussels on Saturday.

Cecilia Malmstrom

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

There was still “no immediate clarity on the exact U.S. procedure on exemption,” Malmstrom, the 28-nation bloc’s trade commissioner, said after the meeting that also included Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko. “As a close security and trade partner of the U.S. the EU must be excluded from the announced measures,” she said.

Canada, Mexico and Australia have secured exemptions from the tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum announced by Trump, though Canada’s and Mexico’s were conditioned on progress renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull heralded his nation’s exemption on Saturday morning following a phone call with Trump, which he described as “a very good and productive discussion.”

Trump has called the tariffs a matter of national security while threatening to tax European car imports and impose “reciprocal taxes” on countries that charge higher duties on U.S. goods than the U.S. now charges on their products.

Seko called on the U.S. to exclude Japan from the U.S. tariffs, Japan’s trade ministry said in a statement. Japanese steel and aluminum exports don’t have any negative effects on U.S. national security, and contribute to American industry and jobs, Seko said, according to the ministry.

South Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon also asked for an exemption from the steel tariffs in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the ministry said in a statement.

Malmstrom, Lighthizer and Seko are set to meet on the margins of the OECD ministerial meeting in Paris next week to further discuss the issue, according to a joint statement after the talks.

— With assistance by Yuko Takeo, and Jiyeun Lee

(Updates with Japan and South Korea comments from the eighth paragraph. An earlier version corrected the spelling of Japanese trade minister’s surname in the last paragraph.)
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