France, Germany and Britain praise US tariff exemption

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier called for more international cooperation "not just against China, but against all those who harm the rules of fair world trade."
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier called for more international cooperation "not just against China, but against all those who harm the rules of fair world trade." PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) - Germany, France and Britain said on Friday (March 23) they were happy that US President Donald Trump had changed his mind about slapping higher tariffs on European steel. 

EU leaders meeting in Brussels were awaiting details of a move that could avert a trade war between the European Union and the United States. 

Trump took the first steps on Thursday towards imposing long-promised anti-China tariffs, though his actions appeared to a warning shot rather than the start of a full-blown trade war with Beijing. Washington also said on Thursday tariffs would be suspended for the EU, the United States’ biggest trading partner, and for Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea.

The tariffs are suspended until May 1 as discussions continue. 

“Europe had clearly stated its intention to riposte and enter a trade war...It’s a good thing that President Trump changed his mind on the tariff increases,” French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said. 

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio: “I am very pleased that we have avoided a situation for the German steel and aluminium industry and its workers that could have led to great uncertainty.”

“We don’t want further unilateral measures; rather we want sensible agreements,” he added. “Our goal is that at the end of these talks, the international trade architecture must be more stable – there must be more cooperation, not less.”

British Prime Minister Theresa, in Brussels, also hailed the US move.  European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, a Frenchman, hailed the move too, saying: “This is progress...let’s keep talking.”

China urged the United States on Friday to "pull back from the brink" as President Donald Trump's plans for tariffs on up to US$60 billion in Chinese goods moved the world's two largest economies closer to a trade war.

Germany's Altmaier called for more international cooperation "not just against China, but against all those who harm the rules of fair world trade."

"We have over-capacity and there are some countries who sell their steel below production costs, so they incur a loss to promote their steel on the world market ... that is unacceptable," he said.