Steel standoff: No exemption for EU so far, despite talks

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem, center, Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko, right, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, pose for photographers prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on Saturday, March 10, 2018. The EU is still seeking clarity from Washington about whether the 28-nation bloc will be exempt from U.S. President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. (Stephanie Lecocq, Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, arrives for a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on Saturday, March 10, 2018. The EU is still seeking clarity from Washington about whether the 28-nation bloc will be exempt from U.S. President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem, center left, meets with Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko, third right, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, fourth right, at EU headquarters in Brussels on Saturday, March 10, 2018. The EU is still seeking clarity from Washington about whether the 28-nation bloc will be exempt from U.S. President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. (Stephanie Lecocq, Pool Photo via AP)
European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem prepares to meet Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer at EU headquarters in Brussels on Saturday, March 10, 2018. The EU is still seeking clarity from Washington about whether the 28-nation bloc will be exempt from U.S. President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. (Stephanie Lecocq, Pool Photo via AP)
European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem, right, speaks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on Saturday, March 10, 2018. The EU is still seeking clarity from Washington about whether the 28-nation bloc will be exempt from U.S. President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. (Stephanie Lecocq, Pool Photo via AP)
Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko prepares to meet with European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem at EU headquarters in Brussels on Saturday, March 10, 2018. The EU is still seeking clarity from Washington about whether the 28-nation bloc will be exempt from U.S. President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. (Stephanie Lecocq, Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS — The European Union and Japan pressed U.S. President Donald Trump's trade envoy Saturday to exempt them, as longtime U.S. allies, from upcoming steel tariffs that have sparked fears of a new trade war.

But they appeared to win no quick concessions.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said after meetings in Brussels that she got "no immediate clarity on the exact U.S. procedure for exemption," and that new talks are planned for next week.

The tariffs come into force in two weeks. If the 28-nation EU cannot secure an exemption, it has threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products like peanut butter and orange juice. Japan has warned of the dangers of tit-for-tat measures.

Malmstroem said in a statement that she had a "frank" discussion with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer about the steel tariffs, insisting that "the European Union must be excluded" because it is a close U.S. ally.

The two also met with Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan Hiroshige Seko, and all three pledged in a statement afterward to work together to fight dumping that hurts jobs and industries around the world.

The meetings were previously planned, but took on greater importance because of Trump's announcement of a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

Key U.S. trading partners and businesses have warned the tariffs could backfire, provoking a trade war and hurting allies like the EU and Japan more than China, their main target.

Trump has said Canada and Mexico are exempt for now, and other countries could be spared if they can convince the administration their steel and aluminum exports don't threaten American jobs and industry.

Trump insisted in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron — a leading EU player staunchly opposed to the tariffs — that the "decision is necessary and appropriate to protect national security."

The White House said in a statement Saturday that "both presidents discussed alternative ways to address United States concerns," without elaborating.

Japan's government has warned the measure could hurt its economic relations with the U.S. But Seko also cautioned that "falling to exchanges of unilateral measures will not be in the interest of any country," according to the Kyodo news agency. He was apparently referring to the EU threats of retaliation.

The EU insists that it is committed to open, global trade. Malmstroem said the real problem is an oversupply of steel on global markets, and she rejected Trump's assertion that the tariffs are needed to protect U.S. national security, especially when most EU countries are members of NATO.

The EU exported about 5.5 million tons of steel to the U.S. last year. The U.S. bought 5 percent of Japan's steel last year but just 1.1 percent of China's steel.

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.

The EU has warned that it stands ready to slap "rebalancing" tariffs on about 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) worth of U.S. steel, agricultural and other products, like peanut butter, cranberries and orange juice.

___

Charlton reported from Paris.

People also read these

Dahlmeier powers to third gold medal at biathlon...

Feb 15, 2017

US-BIATHLON-WORLD:Dahlmeier powers to third gold medal at biathlon Worlds

Quick-fire Bailey storms to individual biathlon...

Feb 16, 2017

US-BIATHLON-WORLD:Quick-fire Bailey storms to individual biathlon gold

Biathlon: Dahlmeier wins fourth title with relay...

Feb 17, 2017

US-BIATHLON-WORLD:Biathlon: Dahlmeier wins fourth title with relay gold in Germany

Shipulin holds off Fourcade to give Russia...

Feb 18, 2017

US-BIATHLON-WORLD:Shipulin holds off Fourcade to give Russia biathlon relay title

Turkey says does not welcome comments from...

Feb 27, 2017

US-TURKEY-REFERENDUM-AUSTRIA:Turkey says does not welcome comments from Austria on Erdogan visit

Sign up now!