Commerce secretary to speak with European Union about ending tariffs against US

For the U.S., Trump has long touted and tweeted that economy will see big gains from the move, as he throws a lifeline to domestic manufacturers.

The EU's top trade official, Cecilia Malmstroem, responded Monday by charging that trade was being used "as a weapon to threaten and intimidate us".

"What we have achieved is a commitment from [US President Donald Trump] that the tariffs on steel and aluminum will not apply to exports from Australia", Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted on Monday March 12.

When Trump announced last week 10 per cent tariffs on aluminium and 25 per cent on steel, he said Canada and Mexico could be exempted permanently if the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is successful. "But we are not afraid, we will stand up to the bullies".

The US tariff for cars, at 2.5 per cent, was lower than the European Union rate of 10 per cent, but its rate of up to 25 per cent on trucks was higher.

"National security is a very important aspect of this deal, and if we're making the deal on NAFTA, this will figure into whether or not there are tariffs on Canada and Mexico", says the president.

"With the European Union we're like $100 billion down on trade because we had stupid politicians", he said.

He also highlighted the strength of the national security relationship between the United Kingdom and the US.

While the tariffs are not expected to have a big impact on the USA or global economy, economists agreed that the risk of a trade war stemming from the move could have much bigger consequences. We believe that protectionism is a dead end, " French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters.

Instead, Ottawa signed onto the 11-nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which excludes both China and the United States, and entered into talks last week to join a South American trading bloc as part of a concerted push to diversify its trading relationships.

To avoid all-out trade war, Malmstroem held fruitless talks in Brussels on Saturday with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer aimed at defusing the row.

Malmstroem said she told Lighthizer that "the European Union must be excluded" from tariffs because it is a close U.S. ally.

"The EU market is one of the most open in the world and if anyone starts throwing stones, it's better first to make sure he is not living in a glasshouse".

  • Marlene Weaver