Trump may exempt more countries from trade tariffs - Treasury's Mnuchin

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Japan's trade minister sought an exemption from USA import tariffs on steel and aluminium on Saturday (March 10) and called for "calm-headed behaviour" in a dispute that threatens to spiral into a trade war.

Germany on Friday urged multilateral talks to address overcapacity in the steel sector and said it supports the European Union's plans to respond if U.S. President Donald Trump presses ahead with tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

Canada, the top source of steel to the U.S. market, has already vowed to take "appropriate, responsive measures" if the Trump administration goes ahead with the tariffs.

Asked at the conference whether she was ready to react if the 28-country European Union was included in the U.S. tariffs, Ms Malmstrom said she stood ready to go to the WTO, the global trade arbiter, to impose the bloc's own safeguards within 90 days.

Europe's trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom described talks with Lighthizer as "frank" and said they had not brought clarity on the exemption procedure. From there, she may travel to Washington, D.C.to continue NAFTA talks although her spokesman would only say her schedule is still being finalized.

If the American tariffs are put in place, Malmström said, the European Union could take three steps: take the case to the WTO; add safeguards to protect the European Union against steel diverted from the United States or impose tariffs on a series of American-made goods.

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 United States industry, but Malmstroem said a list of products had been drawn up including steel, industrial and agricultural items. Mr Seko said he believed there was still time for Japan to secure an exemption.

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. "We will look at the impact onJapanese businesses and make a final decision".

The EU is also looking at "safeguard" measures to protect its industry - restricting the bloc's imports of steel and aluminium to stop foreign supplies flooding the European market, which is allowed under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. Seko also said these exports had made key contributions to USA industries and jobs, the statement said without elaborating. Despite the losses today, Wall Street seems to be enamored with metal company stocks following the tariff announcement, with several upgrades on US Steel coming after the company announced it would restart a plant thanks to the tariffs.

Lighthizer didn't comment publicly after the meetings.

Mnuchin pushed back at concern that Trump's tariff move could represent a repeat of the Smoot-Hawley tariffs implemented in 1930 by President Herbert Hoover, which some economists argue exacerbated the effects of the Great Depression.

Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen warned Washington on Friday not to expect any concessions to win an exemption. Forcing Mexico to pay the tariffs, however, would make it very hard to complete NAFTA talks, the official said. "We are talking about unilateral action against global rules".

Trudeau also spoke on Thursday with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, prominent Republican critics of the tariffs, the prime minister's office said.

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

"Ironically, estimates also show that the USA could overall also suffer job losses as a result of the measures". Under World Trade Organization rules, such counter-measures have to be in place within 90 days of the USA tariffs entering force.

Trump later tweeted: "The European Union, wonderful countries who treat the USA very badly on trade, are complaining about the tariffs on Steel & Aluminum".

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