(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond was the model of diplomacy in addressing the U.S. trade bomb: Donald Trump had a “very personal way” of doing business and some face time might help.
The British finance chief was careful not to appear overly critical of the U.S. decision on Thursday to impose import tariffs on steel and aluminum, expressing hope that a Group of Seven summit next week in Canada might calm the situation and -- who knows -- lead to progress.
“Well, clearly it does change the atmosphere, and we’re obviously all very disappointed as close allies and partners of the U.S. that they have taken this step, especially as they’ve taken it on national security grounds -- and we are close security partners with the U.S.,” Hammond told Bloomberg Television in Whistler, Canada on Friday. “But look, we continue to talk with them.”
By Hammond’s own admission, Brexit is “complicating” his government’s response to the tensions over tariffs. Prime Minister Theresa May responded a full day after her French and German counterparts -- who will be joining her for the G-7 at Charlevoix on June 8 -- attacked Trump’s announcement.
The European Union, Canada and Mexico have vowed to retaliate with duties on U.S. goods from steel to cheese. But for the U.K., the dispute comes at a sensitive time in Brexit negotiations.
May’s government is trying to come up with a plan for its future customs relationship with the EU -- an issue that will determine if Britain can sign trade deals with non-EU countries after leaving the bloc.
“At the moment we remain part of the European Union, and in terms of a trade response to the U.S. tariff imposition we’re working as part of the European Union,” Hammond said in the interview. “But we’re also looking at our trading relationships in countries like the U.S. and Canada once we’re outside the European Union.”
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