Trump delays steel tariffs for EU, other US allies
President Trump is delaying a decision on implementing steel and aluminum tariffs for several close U.S. trading partners, avoiding a major trade skirmish for now.
Trump is pushing the decisions to June 1 for the European Union (EU), Canada and Mexico while reaching preliminary agreements with several other U.S. allies ahead of a looming midnight deadline, the White House announced on Monday evening.
Negotiations will continue for the next 30 days with the 28-member bloc, as well as Canada and Mexico. The White House said this would be the final period to reach a deal with the key trading partners.
The administration has also reached agreements in principle on tariffs with Australia, Argentina and Brazil, which are expected to be completed in the next month.
The countries, which represent major metals importers into the United States, have been in negotiations for weeks with the Trump administration to avoid steep tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.
The delay will give Trump administration officials more time to work out deals with the EU and Mexico and Canada to address the U.S. national security concerns the administration cited for imposing the tariffs.
“In all of these negotiations, the administration is focused on quotas that will restrain imports, prevent transshipment and protect the national security,” the White House said in a brief statement.
The White House announced a final deal to exempt South Korea from the tariffs, as part of a previously announced reworking of the 2012 U.S.-South Korea trade agreement.
Certain countries were granted a temporary exemption when the tariffs went into place March 23: Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brazil and Argentina, as well as the EU.
Only a few hours before the deadline, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business on Monday that Trump had still not finalized his decision.
Trump’s trade team is heading to Beijing this week to try to work out an agreement with China’s leaders over another round of proposed tariffs.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Saturday that the nations seeking waivers have been asked to agree to impose quotas on steel and aluminum in exchange for getting a permanent break from tariffs.
Canada and Mexico, which have repeatedly said they expect a permanent exemption from the tariffs, were not given any guarantees despite weeks of recent negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Talks on NAFTA, which have been ongoing for the past month in Washington, will resume on May 7.
Trade leaders in Mexico and Canada have rejected Trump’s attempts to tie their tariff treatment to the outcome of the massive trade agreement.
The EU, which has been a vocal critic of the tariffs, has threatened $3.5 billion in retaliatory tariffs on jeans, motorcycles and orange juice if Trump follows through with metals tariffs.
Two European leaders — French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — lobbied Trump to reconsider the tariffs during trips to Washington last week, but received no public guarantee.
Macron blasted Trump’s trade policy during a speech before a joint session of Congress.
“A commercial war is not consistent with our mission, with our history, with our current commitments for global security,” the French president declared.
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said ahead of the announcement that “the only thing that I can tell you today is that we are patient but we are also prepared.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke with both Merkel and Macron over the weekend about the “vital importance of our steel and aluminum industries and their concern about the impact of U.S. tariffs.”
— Updated at 9 p.m.
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