WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The European Union’s exemption from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs was extended because of promising trade talks with Washington, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Tuesday, adding that he does not expect the practice to continue.
“We’re having some potentially fruitful discussions about an overall reduction in trade tensions,” Ross said in a CNBC interview. “I don’t think we have any intention to grant protracted extensions, that defeats the whole purpose.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has invoked a 1962 trade law to erect protections for U.S. steel and aluminum producers on national security grounds, amid a worldwide glut of both metals that is largely blamed on excess production in China.
In March, Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the EU, Australia and Argentina were granted temporary exemptions at that time.
On Monday, hours before the exemptions were due to expire, the White House announced it would postpone tariffs on Canada, the EU and Mexico until June 1. Officials said Washington reached agreements for permanent exemptions for Argentina, Australia and Brazil.
The tariffs have increased frictions with U.S. trading partners and prompted several challenges before the World Trade Organization.
But countries granted exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs will still be subject to a quota system for imports, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Tuesday.
“We will have quotas and other restrictions to make sure that we defend our industries in the interest of national security,” Navarro told steel industry executives, adding that the approach also would apply to entities “like Europe.”
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, David Lawder and Jason Lange; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao)