Tue, May 01, 2018 - Page 10 News List

US to extend duty relief to ‘some’ allies

Bloomberg

The US President Donald Trump administration plans to extend relief from steel and aluminum tariffs to some countries, but not all, when their temporary exemptions expire today, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said.

Ross in an interview in Washington late on Saturday declined to identify which nations would be spared from the tariffs.

He said the announcement would be made right before the deadline for the duties to take effect.

On Friday, Ross said that nations have been asked to accept import quotas in return for tariff-free access of the metals into the US.

The steel and aluminum tariffs are fueling tensions with some of the US’ strongest allies, just as US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin leads a delegation this week to China for talks on what the US sees as Beijing’s unfair trading practices.

Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on as much as US$150 billion of Chinese goods if negotiations fail to yield progress, a move China that has said would provoke retaliation against key US imports.

The EU last week asked to join a case, starting with consultations, that was initiated by China at the WTO over the US steel and aluminum tariffs.

Trump used his broad powers under a little-used trade law to impose the 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum after a study by his administration found the imports threaten US national security.

However, Trump walked back from an earlier no-exemptions stance to give Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the EU, Mexico and South Korea a temporary reprieve when the tariffs took effect in March and directed US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to handle negotiations with countries seeking exemptions.

So far, South Korea is the only nation to be spared from the duties after reaching a deal to revise its bilateral free-trade agreement with the US, which was already under way.

To avoid the steel tariff, South Korea agreed to limit US shipments of the metal to about 2.7 million tonnes a year.

The country also agreed to double to 50,000 the number of US cars that could be imported without meeting local safety standards.

The EU has been among the most vocal critics of the tariffs, saying that it does not make sense for the US to target steel and aluminum shipments of its defense partners in the name of national security risk.

The EU has also said it has prepared to apply retaliatory tariffs on US$3.5 billion of imports from the US, ranging from orange juice to blue jeans.

British Prime Minister Theresa May discussed the “impact” of the US tariffs and the “vital importance” of each country’s steel and aluminum industries with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during separate telephone calls this weekend.

The leaders agreed to work with the rest of the EU and the Trump administration to secure permanent exemptions, according to a readout from the British prime minister’s office.

Meanwhile, Canada and Mexico have rejected Trump’s suggestion of linking the discussions over metals tariffs to securing the US better terms in a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement.

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