European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem (C), US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (L) and Japan's Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko arrive for a meeting for talks after US President imposes tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, on March 10, 2018
Brussels (AFP) - The EU’s top trade official said the US failed on Saturday to provide full clarity on how Europe could be spared from Washington’s controversial steel and aluminium tariffs, but said talks would continue next week.
European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem made her statement after crunch talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in an effort to defuse a bitter row that many fear could turn into an all-out trade war.
President Donald Trump’s announcement of duties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminium has stung the European Union, along with other major partners including Japan, whose Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko also attended the talks in Brussels.
“As a close security and trade partner of the US, the EU must be excluded from the announced measures,” Malmstroem said on Twitter after the meeting.
“No immediate clarity on the exact US procedure for exemption however, so discussions will continue next week,” she added.
The talks, initially set to address China’s oversupply of steel, have long been in the diary, but after Trump’s dramatic announcement, they became the first opportunity to defuse the crisis.
With tensions at a peak, officials kept a tight lid on the content of the meeting and sought to keep expectations of any breakthrough low.
Along with a huge range of steel products, the EU’s hit list of flagship American products lined up for counter measures includes peanut butter, bourbon whiskey and denim jeans.
The real estate tycoon also faced a backlash at home with his top economic advisor Gary Cohn stepping down in opposition to the tariffs and senior Republican allies voicing shock and dismay.