by Will Racke
Leaders from several European Union countries said Thursday they’re ready to negotiate with Washington on opening up their markets to more U.S. exports in exchange for a blanket exemption on industrial tariffs.
At an EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, leaders settled on several areas where they would be willing accommodate President Donald Trump’s administration, on the condition that Washington give Europe’s steel and aluminum producers a permanent exemption from tariffs.
“We have a common position. We want a permanent exemption and then we are ready to talk about how we can reciprocally reduce the barriers to trade,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters on Thursday, according to Reuters.
Citing concerns over national security and unfair international trade practices, Trump slapped tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in March. Later that month, he issued an exemption until June 1 for producers in the EU and a handful of other countries, pending the outcome of trade talks.
At the Sofia summit, EU leaders sought ways to ratchet down tensions over trade amid anger over Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal. Washington’s withdrawal carries the possibility of secondary sanctions against overseas firms that do business with Tehran. The prospect has rankled many European countries, particularly France and Germany, that have built extensive trade ties with Iran since the deal was signed.
Still, Europe should do “everything in its power” to protect the transatlantic bond, Tusk added.
To that end, European leaders identified four of Washington’s trade demands they would consider, assuming Trump makes permanent the EU’s exemption on steel and aluminum tariffs. The EU would seek to open up market access for American industrial products, loosen restrictions on procuring U.S. goods for public agencies, help usher in reforms to the World Trade Organization, and import more American liquefied natural gas.
“We seek solutions. It is possible, there is room,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said, according to Reuters. “The agreement yesterday on four points gives some kind of space for talks.”
The European Commission has said it will slap import taxes on U.S. products, including motorcycles and whiskey, if Trump moves forward with tariffs on European aluminum and steel. On Thursday, it published a draft law that will allow it to impose 25 percent tariffs on U.S imports after June 20, and import duties of up to 50 percent after March 23, 2021.
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