Trade representatives for Japan and the European Union met with the U.S. trade representative Saturday in an effort to avoid a trade war over President Donald Trump’s new tariffs on aluminum and steel.
At the meeting in Brussels, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Japanese counterpart Hiroshige Seko discussed the tariffs as part of a trilateral effort to combat unfair trade practices.
The EU said in a statement that both Brussels and Tokyo had serious concerns about the U.S. tariffs. Both powers, two of the biggest trade partners with the United States, have asked for exemptions from the tariffs.
After the meeting, Malmstrom tweeted, “No immediate clarity on the exact U.S. procedure for exemption … so discussions will continue next week.”
Seko said at a news conference following the meeting, “I firmly and clearly expressed my view that this is regrettable. … I explained that this could have a bad effect on the entire multilateral trading system.”
Saturday afternoon, Trump accused the EU of treating “the U.S. very badly on trade.” He said if they dropped their “horrific barriers & tariffs on U.S. products … we will likewise drop ours.”
If they don’t, he warned, the United States will tax European cars and other products.
On Friday, the European Union said it was not clear whether the bloc would be exempt from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.
Malmstrom said Friday in Brussels, “We hope that we can get confirmation that the EU is excluded from this.”
Trump signed proclamations Thursday imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, with the new taxes set to go into effect in two weeks.
Canada and Mexico were given specific exemptions from the tariffs for an indefinite period while negotiations continue on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Brazil, South Korea and Australia have also asked for exemptions or special treatment.
Trump imposed the tariffs despite pleas from friends and allies who warned the new measure could ignite a trade war.