World

EU, Japan seek clarity from crunch United States trade talks

EU, Japan seek clarity from crunch United States trade talks

The EU's Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has met with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer amid efforts for the European Union to secure an exemption from steel and aluminium imports imposed by US President Donald Trump.

Foreign steel producers are not only concerned about losing access to the U.S. market but also that steel from other exporters will flood already saturated markets, threatening jobs elsewhere.

Key US trading partners and businesses have warned the tariffs could backfire, provoking a trade war and hurting allies like the European Union and Japan more than China, their main target. "No immediate clarity on the exact USA procedure for exemption however, so discussions will continue next week".

Brussels is also looking to "safeguard" measures to protect its industry - restricting the bloc's imports of steel and aluminium to stop foreign supplies flooding the European market, which is allowed under World Trade Organisation rules.

"We are prepared and will be prepared if need be to use rebalancing measures", Katainen said. Shares in European steelmakers fell, although Germany's two biggest producers Thyssenkrupp and Salzgitter have insisted the impact on them will be limited.

The EU's top trade official said Friday that "dialogue" with Washington was the bloc's "prime option" as it seeks to win exemptions from US President Donald Trump's controversial new steel and aluminium tariffs.

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Some products under consideration are largely produced in constituencies controlled by Trump's Republican Party.

Mr Trump says the measures will "protect the American worker" and fulfil a campaign promise.




European industry associations called on Malmstrom to react to the tariffs.

"It's a very tricky situation made harder by Trump's approach to [trade] rules", said Peter Holmes, a trade expert at the University of Sussex.

A collapse in steel prices has hit Western countries including the U.S., Italy, and Belgium, which has led to job losses in the industry, CNBC reported. China accounts for only a small fraction of United States steel imports, but its rapid rise to produce half the world's steel has helped create a global glut that has driven down prices.

Last year, China imported 3.2 million tons of United States coal, worth about $420 million and almost five times the amount it took in 2016.

The dispute has fueled concerns that soybeans, the United States' most valuable export to China, might be caught up in the row after Beijing launched an inquiry probe into imports of USA sorghum, a grain used in animal feed and liquor.

Brussels wants to maximise the political impact of its reprisals on the U.S. while minimising the impact of a trade war on European consumers.

Trump argues the tariffs are created to protect U.S.jobs and national security.


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