EU, US to meet 'next week' to discuss trade tariffs

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom attending a debate at the European Parliament.
European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom attending a debate at the European Parliament.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BRUSSELS (AFP) - US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will meet next week to try to defuse a trade row sparked by controversial US steel and aluminium tariffs, EU sources said on Thursday (March 15).

After a phone call, "Commissioner Malmstrom and Secretary Ross agreed to meet next week - the details of this meeting are still to be decided upon," a European Commission source said.

The negotiations between the EU and the US are to win an exception for Europe from the tariffs, with Brussels seeking clarity on how to achieve that before they come into effect on March 23.

US President Donald Trump sparked a firestorm earlier this month by suddenly announcing plans to institute sweeping tariffs on steel and aluminium imports in response to alleged dumping and improper subsidies that Ross said had endangered US security.

The announcement of duties of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminium has stung the EU, coming as a surprise to US allies and also to many in Washington.

Trump on Monday said Ross would use the talks to persuade Europeans to lower their tariffs and other barriers on US products.

At a campaign rally Saturday, Trump threatened to "tax" German cars if the EU does not lower its barriers on US goods.

Brussels has pushed back the hardest against Washington's shock measures, loudly announcing a list of US products - including peanuts and motorcycles - it could hit with countermeasures.

To avoid all-out trade war, Malmstrom has also held talks, so far fruitless, with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer aimed at defusing the row.