USA treasury chief Steve Mnuchin: 'Cautiously optimistic' on China trade talks

As steel tariffs squeeze U.S. businesses uncertainty threatens economic growth

The confrontation stems from the president's decision in March to slap tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum.

The EU also plans to join a separate WTO dispute against the USA, arguing that the American tariffs violate the WTO's most-favored nation principle, which prevents countries from discriminating between their trading partners.

The EU tariffs would hit USA consumer, agricultural and steel products in many key Republican constituencies, putting pressure on Trump ahead of crucial midterm elections in November.

The EU has argued that the USA tariffs are "essentially" safeguard measures, despite the fact that Washington said its actions were to protect national security.

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May's office said in a statement after the prime minister's Sunday call with Merkel that they and Macron "pledged to continue to work closely with the rest of the European Union and the us administration with the aim of a permanent exemption from USA tariffs". That deal, the outlines of which were previously announced, requires South Korea to limit exports to the U.S.in exchange for an exemption from tariffs.

An expiration deadline for exemptions to USA steel and aluminum tariffs loomed on Monday, but US allies and metals producers were still in the dark whether any countries would get extended relief, with the USA treasury secretary saying President Donald Trump had not made a decision.

The steel threat has complicated talks with Canada and Mexico on a revised North American Free Trade Agreement.

European Trade Commissioner Malmstrom was due to talk by phone with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday in a last effort to persuade Washington to do so.

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President Trump has expressed that he would like to discuss future trade relations with individual member states rather than the European Union as a whole.

Gregory Daco, chief USA economist at Oxford Economics, warned of financial shocks if the tariffs go into effect. The EU has threatened to retaliate with duties on iconic American goods such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Kentucky bourbon. However, the EU has declined, and insists that it is only willing to discuss future trade terms with the U.S. once a permanent and unconditional offer has been made that gives European companies exemption to the new steel and aluminium tariffs.

A US delegation is on its way to Beijing for trade talks later this week. Brussels has already threatened to hit back with tariffs on American imports such as motorcycles, jeans, orange juice, bourbon, and peanut butter-after Canada, the European Union is the biggest importer (chart in German) by volume of that quintessentially American product.

"If you let everybody back out of the tariff, and you let them out of any kind of quota, how would you ever reduce the imports here?"

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