Trump keeps U.S. allies, metals producers guessing on tariff exemptions

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On Monday, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström held last-minute minute talks with U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross but, again, failed to secure a definite answer to removing the tariffs for the EU.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

The European Commission, which oversees trade policy for the 28 EU members, has insisted that the United States grant it a permanent exemption without conditions.

If they are not extended, the now exempted countries would likely retaliate.

President Trump has expressed that he would like to discuss future trade relations with individual member states rather than the European Union as a whole.

Trump administration officials have said that in lieu of tariffs, steel and aluminum exporting countries would have to agree to quotas created to achieve similar protections for USA producers.

The EU, in response, has insisted that it will only discuss terms of trade with the United States once it has received a permanent and unconditional exemption to the steel and aluminium tariffs.

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Ross said on Friday that the U.S. wanted "quotas, if not tariffs " on European Union metal shipments. After all: A tariff is simply a sales tax on imported goods.

The U.S. imported 34.6 million metric tons of steel previous year, a 15 percent increase from 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement Sunday that she discussed the issue with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May after returning from a White House visit Friday. But in exchange, South Korea had to reduce its steel exports to the about 30 percent, Similar quotas could be imposed on other countries as part of a final deal.

"The European Union should be ready to decisively defend its interests within the framework of multilateral trade rules", Merkel said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a news conference at the G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 20, 2018.

Mnuchin noted in the interview that he is not concerned about China's retaliatory measures in response to United States tariffs.

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.

"The president has not made any decision yet", Mnuchin said during an interview on Fox Business.