Japan trade minister calls for calm heads over U.S. tariffs

11 March, 2018, 01:33 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Alex Wong  Getty Images North America

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

European trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom met USA trade envoy Robert Lighthizer in Brussels on Saturday for what she described as "frank" discussions which "brought no immediate clarity".

The EU is holding fire on its reprisals as Trump has yet to sign into effect his plan to set tariffs for what he calls unfair competition for U.S. industry, but Malmstroem said a list of products had been drawn up including steel, industrial and agricultural items.

In talks, the United States should not expect any European Union concessions to win an exemption, European Union officials said.

Announcing the tariffs, Trump said Canada and Mexico would be excluded and other countries could negotiate exemptions, but he singled out Germany for particular criticism.

"We must accept that the world becomes a place of each man for himself", the commissioner said.

"The exact nature of the (EU) steps will be decided after a close analysis of the American measures."Separately, Germany's transatlantic coordinator, Juergen Hardt, told Reuters the USA government should have exempted its European allies from punitive tariffs imposed against steel and aluminium imports that were primarily aimed at China". The EU wants to find out exactly what mandate he has and precisely what conditions allow exemptions, but it is ruling out any negotiations for USA market access.

Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said he had expressed Japanese concern to Lighthizer and warned of major market disruption.

Mr Seko called for calm-headed behaviour in the dispute.

Seko did not go into what conditions might allow Japan to evade tariffs and, asked if Lighthizer had brought up the USA trade deficit with Japan, Seko said no.

Any Japanese response, he said, would be in line with World Trade Organization rules: "If there is a violation, then we will seek consultations", Seko said. However, it took on more urgency after Trump's tariff move.

"This is not a trade negotiation", he said.

Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen warned Washington on Friday not to expect any concessions to win an exemption. Under World Trade Organization rules, such counter-measures have to be in place within 90 days of the US tariffs entering force.

The tariffs come into force in two weeks, and if the 28-nation European Union can not secure an exemption, it has threatened retaliatory tariffs on US products like peanut butter and orange juice.

It has already started monitoring incoming metal flows to see whether a surge occurs.

Earlier this week she warned the United States tariffs could jeopardise thousands of European jobs.



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