Talks on trade tariffs

BRUSSELS – US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom have agreed to meet next week in an attempt to resolve a deepening dispute over trade tariffs, a European Commission source said on Thursday.

Mr Ross and Ms Malmstrom spoke on the telephone on Thursday and discussed US plans to impose import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, the source said.

Ms Malmstrom repeated the EU’s hope that it would be exempted, given that the bloc is a close security ally of the United States, and said the two should work together on the issue of global overcapacity, which was harming both economies.

President Donald Trump, who has cited national security for imposing the tariffs, has already offered exemptions to Canada and Mexico. Mr Ross and Ms Malmstrom agreed to meet next week although details of the talks remain to be set, the Commission source said.

Ms Malmstrom met US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Brussels on Saturday, but emerged from that meeting saying it was not clear how the EU could seek exemptions.

Mr Trump tweeted on Monday that Mr Ross would lead Washington’s efforts to persuade the EU to remove tariffs and barriers that he has described as “horrific” and unfair to US farmers and manufacturers.

He has also threatened to set import levies on EU cars.

The EU disputes Mr Trump’s line on tariffs and his emphasis on cars, for which the US tariff, at 2.5 per cent, is lower than the EU’s 10 per cent. For other products, US tariffs are higher, such as trucks at 25 per cent compared with an EU rate that can be as low as 10.