EU leaders want 'permanent exemption' from Trump tariffs

AFP , Friday 23 Mar 2018

Theresa May EU Summit
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Slovenia's Prime Minister Miro Cerar attend a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 23, 2018. (Source: Reuters)

EU leaders on Friday said they would seek a permanent exemption from punishing trade tariffs, after US President Donald Trump granted a temporary reprieve.

"I am pleased that they have announced a temporary exemption for the EU," said British Prime Minister Theresa May as she arrived for the second day of an EU summit in Brussels.

"What I will be working with my fellow EU leaders today is to see how we can secure a permanent exemption for the EU steel tariffs," she added.

Trump on Thursday authorised the suspension of controversial tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from key trade partners including the European Union, but only until May 1.

"We are just starting a negotiation with the European Union because they've really shut out our country to a large extent, they have barriers.. very strong tariffs," Trump said in Washington.

Some leaders bristled at Trump's tactics and warned that the Trump reprieve could be only short-term.

"This gives the impression that the head of the United states is looking to negotiate with the European Union with a gun to our head," said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Speaking in Paris, EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici warned that the "devil was in the details".

"This decision is temporary and will require exchanges with Washington and we will have to prepare for all eventualities," Moscovici told France Inter radio.

As a precaution, the commission has drawn up a list of potential counter-measures, including tariffs on peanut butter and Harley Davidson motorcycles, in case Trump imposes his tariffs.

Despite the apparent climbdown toward Europe, Trump has sparked fresh trade war fears by imposing huge tariffs on Chinese imports with Beijing unveiling its own measures against US goods.

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