U.S. to delay European Union tariff decision until June 1

SAUL LOEB  AFP  Getty

The move will allow the USA and the allies, including the European Union and Canada, more time to work out ways to reduce trade imbalances.

The Trump administration has relied on a 1962 law that allows countries to impose trade restrictions for national security purposes.

Washington, May 1 US President Donald Trump today signed a proclamation to delay for 30 days the implementation of his steel and aluminium import tariff hike on the European Union, Canada and Mexico, the White House said, adding that it has also reached a trade agreement with South Korea.

The 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent duties on aluminum were set to go into effect on Tuesday, as temporary exemptions granted in March to the EU, Canada, Mexico and other USA allies expired.

The exemptions will now last until June 1, a move that gives the USA and the exempted nations more time to work out deals to help reduce trade imbalances. But similar to his other moves on trade, Trump backed down on the threat.

The administration also said that "agreements in principle" to permanently exempt Argentina, Australia, and Brazil were reached, but additional time was needed to hash out the details.

But Canada, Mexico and the European Union have all insisted that they will not accept quotas to gain permanent exemptions from the USA tariffs.

"In all of these negotiations, the Administration is focused on quotas that will restrain imports, prevent transshipment, and protect the national security", the administration said in a statement. That deal, the outlines of which were previously announced, requires South Korea to limit exports to the U.S.in exchange for an exemption from tariffs.

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The confrontation stems from the president's decision in March to slap tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum.

Trump met French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, but gave no indication of whether he planned to exempt the European Union, which a year ago exported over $7.7 billion of steel and aluminum to the USA market.

In addition to the direct economic outcome of the exemptions, the move also prevents those countries from taking retaliatory action against the US.

The tariffs were a central issue in separate meetings Trump held last week with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.

If the European Union is subject to tariffs on the 6.4 billion euros ($7.7 billion) of the metals it exports annually to the United States, it has said it will set its own duties on 2.8 billion euros of US exports of products ranging from makeup to motorcycles.

The decisions came just hours before temporary exemptions from the tariffs on these countries were set to expire at 12:01 a.m. (0401 GMT) on Tuesday.

Trump has invoked a 1962 trade law to erect protections for USA steel and aluminum producers on national security grounds, amid a worldwide glut of both metals that is largely blamed on excess production in China.

For now, these actions, and a probable trade war, are likely to be delayed by Trump's extension.

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