The European Union and Japan pressed the U.S. to exempt them from President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs on Saturday, firing their opening salvos as officials seek to avoid a trade war with the world's biggest economy. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and their Japanese counterpart, Hiroshige Seko, in Brussels as part of a trilateral effort to combat unfair trade practices.
As Market Watch writes in an article "EU, Japan press for exemptions from U.S. tariffs", in the wake of Mr. Trump's tariffs declaration Thursday, however, focus shifted from countering China's state-sponsored capitalism to U.S. moves rattling two of its biggest economic partners--accounting for about a quarter of America's annual trade in goods. Both Brussels and Tokyo stressed their serious concern over the U.S. measures, the EU said in a statement. Japan and the EU have been arguing publicly and privately with U.S. officials that they must be excluded from the measures as close security and trade allies.
"I had a frank discussion with the U.S. side about the serious pending issue of steel/aluminium tariffs," Ms. Malmstrom said from her official Twitter account after also holding a bilateral meeting with Mr. Lighthizer. "No immediate clarity on the exact US procedure for exemption however, so discussions will continue next week."
Mr. Lighthizer didn't give a clear answer on whether Japan would get an exemption either, Mr. Seko said, according to Japanese newswire Kyodo. Tokyo's trade envoy met with Ms. Malmstrom before the trilateral meeting with the U.S., urging the EU to respond cautiously to the tariffs because tit-for-tat retaliation wouldn't be in anyone's interest.