US President Donald Trump on Friday said he has spoken with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and that they are working on an agreement so Australia will not be subject to US tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Trump on Thursday set import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, but he exempted Canada and Mexico and held out the possibility of excluding other allies.
“He is committed to having a very fair and reciprocal military and trade relationship,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to Turnbull. “Working very quickly on a security agreement so we don’t have to impose steel or aluminum tariffs on our ally, the great nation of Australia.”
Australia is a small global exporter of steel, despite being one of the world’s largest suppliers of raw iron ore.
Australian steel and aluminum exports to the US were worth just more than A$400 million (US$314.1 million) last year, Australian government data showed.
Shortly after Trump’s tweet, Turnbull said on Twitter that the relationship between the two allies was fair and reciprocal.
“Thank you for confirming new tariffs won’t have to be imposed on Australian steel & aluminum — good for jobs in Australia and in US!” Turnbull said.
Separately, the EU and Japan were yesterday in talks with Trump’s trade envoy looking to be excluded from US steel and aluminum tariffs, with the EU warning that it would retaliate if Washington does not relent.
The EU on Friday said that it remained unclear how an exclusion would work and that it wanted details from yesterday’s talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Brussels, but added that it did not expect the meeting to resolve all the problems.
“We need a dialogue with the United States. It’s clear. We need clarity,” European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said.
“We are an ally, not a threat,” he said, rejecting any hint that the bloc’s exports threatened US national security — Trump’s justification for imposing the tariffs.
Lighthizer’s meetings with European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom and separately with Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko were long planned, but they took on added urgency as allies warned the US moves could provoke a global trade war.
The European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 28-nation EU, the world’s biggest trading bloc, has said it is ready to impose safeguards, tariffs or quotas to protect its own steel and aluminum industries from products diverted to Europe because of the US measures.
It has already started monitoring incoming metal flows to see whether a surge occurs.
The EU is also maintaining a threat of countermeasures that would target US imports ranging from corn to motorcycles, and might publish its list next week to allow industry and other interested parties to give their input.
Under WTO rules, such countermeasures have to be in place within 90 days of the US tariffs entering force.
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