Trump may exempt more countries from trade tariffs - Treasury's Mnuchin

Chris Kleponis- CNP  Newscom

USA allies seeking to avoid the steel and aluminum tariffs approved by President Donald Trump might be asked to step up their financial commitments to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

"We are prepared and will be prepared if need be to use rebalancing measures", Katainen said.

The European Union, the world's biggest trade bloc, chimed in.

"There will be a lot of high-level discussions as we proceed with this", he said Friday after touring a JetBlue facility in NY to celebrate the company's tax cut bonuses.

Japan's trade minister sought an exemption from United States import tariffs on steel and aluminium on Saturday (March 10) and called for "calm-headed behaviour" in a dispute that threatens to spiral into a trade war.

"We have been very clear that (the USA decision) is not in compliance with the WTO", she said.

After meetings with USA trade envoy Robert Lighthizer in Brussels, EU and Japanese trade officials said negotiations would need to continue.

Brussels has reminded Trump that tit-for-tat trade measures deepened the Great Depression in the 1930s and in the 2000s cost thousands of USA jobs when Washington imposed tariffs on European steel.

However, the lawmaker said Iran's steel industry can fulfill the domestic demand and the country needs no steel imports. "It is crap", Trump said, earning cheers from the crowd.

"There are economic security issues we have to address, but let us do it together and within WTO rules", Katainen added.

The United States opened the way for more exemptions from its steel and aluminum tariffs on Friday, after pressure from allies and intense lobbying from lawmakers, further diluting the measures just a day after they were formally announced. "Steel is back, and aluminum is back".

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Lighthizer made no public comment after the meetings with Malmström and Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko, which lasted several hours.

This progress was "unexpected" and a source of cautious optimism on solving the tariff row, an European Union official said on condition of anonymity.

Striking a defiant tone, European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen called Trump's speech protectionist, saying it remained unclear how a potential exclusion process would work.

Along with a huge range of steel products, the EU's hit list of flagship American products lined up for counter measures includes peanut butter, bourbon whiskey and denim jeans.

Major US trading partners have condemned Trump's decision to impose the punitive tariffs as protectionism and an affront to allies, amid growing fears of a global trade war.

"This is not a trade negotiation", he said.

Complicating matters, Trump indicated that the sparing of Australia was linked to an unspecified "security agreement" outside of trade policy.

However, it took on more urgency after Trump's tariff move.

Turnbull told reporters that Trump "was able to confirm that he would not have to impose tariffs on Australian steel and aluminum", and that now the paperwork will be done "to put that direction into effect".

Canada, the top source of steel to the USA market, has already vowed to take "appropriate, responsive measures" if the Trump administration goes ahead with the tariffs.

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