The EU’s trade chief has said she expects Donald Trump to exempt the European trade bloc from planned steel and aluminium tariffs after she met with US officials on a diplomatic mission to Washington DC.
Cecilia Malmström returned to Brussels from her US trip on Thursday to brief EU leaders, who are discussing the EU’s response to Mr Trump’s new wave of protectionism as part of a meeting of the European Council.
“We have argued, and I think successfully, that the European Union is not an enemy of the US when it comes to steel and aluminium,” Ms Malmström said in her account of the visit. “Hopefully, that will lead to us being excluded from the measures.”
She added: “It is ultimately the president who decides this. But we expect that secretary Ross will recommend that the EU is excluded as a whole.”
The spectre of a transatlantic trade war was raised in recent weeks after Mr Trump announced he would impose a 25 per cent tariff on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium imports.
The European Commission has threatened the US with retaliatory measures targeted against Bourbon Whiskey, Harley Davidson motorcycles, and Levis jeans if the steel and aluminium tariffs go ahead.
Exempting the EU would be a significant climb-down for the US president, who said in recent weeks that trade wars were “good, and easy to win”. He has previously hit out at what he called Europe’s “very unfair” trade policies towards the United States.
Earlier this month the US president criticised the EU for “complaining” about the tariffs.
“If they drop their horrific barriers and tariffs on US products going in, we will likewise drop ours,” he said.
US steel producers are concerned about the dumping of cheap metal, primarily by Chinese steelmakers. EU diplomats said ahead of the European Council summit that it was clear that steelmaking was a global problem and that the way to deal with it was through the forum of the WTO and G20, rather than by escalating a trade dispute.