U.S. Seeks Metal Quotas as Allies Push for Exemptions, Ross Says

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(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration is asking Europe, Canada and other allies to accept quotas to be exempted from steel and aluminum tariffs that kick in May 1, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.

“We are asking of everyone: quotas if not tariffs,” Ross said at a forum in Washington on Friday.

The White House last month temporarily shielded a list of trading partners including the European Union from the duties, at 25 percent for imported steel and 10 percent for aluminum on the grounds of protecting national security. The president ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate with countries seeking permanent exemptions.

So far, South Korea is the only nation to be spared from the duties, after reaching a deal to revise its bilateral free trade agreement with the U.S..

To avoid the steel tariff, South Korea agreed to limit U.S. shipments of the metal to about 2.7 million tons a year, the ministry said. The country also agreed to double to 50,000 the number of U.S. cars that could be imported without meeting local safety standards.

Ross’s remarks indicate how difficult it could be for the EU to receive an exemption, as the bloc’s Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has signaled quotas would run afoul of World Trade Organization rules. The EU has said it will impose retaliatory tariffs on $3.5 billion of U.S. imports if Trump carries out his plan on the steel duties.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she discussed trade disputes with Trump during talks at the White House on Friday, including her offer of broader trade negotiations with the EU. She suggested the president wasn’t convinced and failed to win a public commitment from Trump to halt the steel tariffs.

“The president will decide, that’s clear,” Merkel told reporters at a news conference alongside Trump. “We spoke about the state of negotiations and our respective assessments. The decision lies with the president.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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