EU trade chief says Merkel, Macron will push Trump on steel

German chancellor Angela Merkel, right, Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, center, and his wife Angelica Rivera de Pena, left, watch a robot arm at the IGB booth at the Hannover Fair, in Hannover, Germany, Monday, April 23, 2018. (Hauke-Christian Dittrich/dpa via AP)
European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom, left, and European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan participate in a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, April 23, 2018. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom says that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will take a tough message to U.S. President Donald Trump and insist that the 28-nation bloc must be fully exempted from steel and aluminum tariffs and is ready to hit back with retaliatory measures as of next month if necessary. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, April 23, 2018. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom says that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will take a tough message to U.S. President Donald Trump and insist that the 28-nation bloc must be fully exempted from steel and aluminum tariffs and is ready to hit back with retaliatory measures as of next month if necessary. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

BRUSSELS — The EU's trade chief said Monday that the bloc's two most powerful leaders will tell U.S. President Donald Trump to back off on plans to impose steel and aluminum tariffs when they visit Washington this week.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet separately with Trump and are bent on safeguarding trans-Atlantic unity to face common challenges, from Iran to North Korea and beyond.

Both will insist that unity would be threatened if Trump starts imposing punitive tariffs on key EU industries.

Last month, Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum, but granted the EU a temporary exemption until May 1. The U.S. also temporarily exempted big steel producers Canada and Mexico — provided they agree to renegotiate a North American trade deal to his satisfaction.

The United States and the EU are holding high-level talks to address the issue but EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom insisted Washington should not count on any concessions or haggling from the EU.

"We expect an unconditional and permanent exception," said Malmstrom, adding she was convinced Merkel and Macron would fully back that view.

The EU has drawn up a list of countermeasures, worth some 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion), to slap on U.S. products if the bloc is not permanently excluded. The measures would hit traditional U.S. products like bourbon, jeans and motorcycles in an effort to hurt industries that are important to the Trump electorate.

"The list is agreed by member states and we will have it ready," said Malmstrom.

Macron arrives in Washington on Monday while Merkel travels on Thursday.

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