EU, Japan seek clarity from crunch USA trade talks

President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker said Friday

More countries want to be exempt from Trump's tariffs

The European Union expects to be excluded from USA steel and aluminum tariffs but will go to the World Trade Organization to impose its own measures if Washington presses ahead, EU officials said yesterday.

Lighthizer's meetings with European Union trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom and separately with Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko were long planned, but they took on added urgency as allies warned the USA moves could provoke a global trade war.

Tusk's tough words came after the European Union unveiled a raft of countermeasures that will hit a huge range of flagship U.S. exports - from jeans to motorbikes to cranberries - with duties if Trump acts on his threat to impose heavy tariffs on steel and aluminium.

Trump, elected on a promise to roll back the effects of globalisation on the U.S. economy with an "America First" platform, said Thursday he planned to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday threatened to hit big-name United States brands such as Harley Davidson motorbikes and Levi's jeans with import duties, prompting Trump to fire back a threat to tax cars from the EU.

In announcing the measures, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker taunted Trump, saying the EU could match "stupid with stupid".

The talks, initially set to address China's oversupply of steel, have always been in the diary, but after Trump's dramatic announcement, they became the first opportunity to defuse the crisis.

"If Trump wants his allies to demonstrate that they are united in tackling problems with China, this is precisely that", the source added. European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said it would be "a meeting, not THE meeting".

"Certain types of bourbon are on the list as are other items such as peanut butter, cranberries, orange juice", Malmstroem said.

Germany - singled out for particular criticism by Trump - accused Washington of protectionism, calling the tariffs an "affront to close partners".

Trump is opening up one-on-one trade talks with countries on the new tariffs, to see if he can win concessions for the U.S. He also added Australia to the list of likely carve-outs.

Trump is expected to sign a presidential proclamation to establish the tariffs during a ceremony on Thursday, though White House officials have said it could slide into Friday because documents have to be cleared through a legal process.

Complicating matters, Trump indicated on Friday that Australia's carveout was linked to an unspecified "security agreement" outside of trade policy.

The EU exports around five billion euros' ($4 billion) worth of steel and a billion euros' worth of aluminium to the U.S. each year, and the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, estimates Trump's tariffs could cost some 2.8 billion euros. "It could disrupt the steel and aluminium markets of the world and have a negative impact", Mr Seko told reporters after meeting Mr Lighthizer to seek an exemption for Japanese producers.

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