Europe expects to escape United States metal tariffs

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Germany's Peter Altmaier and European Union trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom both visited Washington this week to seek the exemption.

The eleventh-hour reprieve for Europe and the United Kingdom comes as the USA is imposes 25 per cent tariffs on steel and 10 per cent tariffs on aluminium from midnight tonight U.S. time.

But only temporarily. The European summit debates on Friday protectionist measures imposed on Trump administration, with tariff increases on aluminum and steel destined for China: Europe has managed to get out of se rises in extremis, but Brussels fears that Washington recharges in a few weeks, and EU leaders claim that European exemption is "permanent", according to draft conclusions of summit that is closed today.

The other countries to benefit are Mexico, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brasil and South Korea.

U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross told an Irish delegation during a visit in Washington last week that the administration views this as an attack on American corporations.

Merkel said it was not clear what Trump's decision had been, meaning European Union leaders would have to return to the topic on Friday.

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European Parliament president Atonio Tajani said the news was a "in the right direction".

The EU has spent the past several weeks scrambling for a waiver from the US metal tariffs while warning that a failure to gain one would lead to a tit-for-tat response on 2.8 billion euros ($3.5 billion) of imports of USA goods including Harley-Davidson Inc. motorcycles, Levi Strauss & Co. jeans and bourbon whiskey.

On the same day, United States treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. was opposed to any tax measures that targeted USA digital companies.

The news came after two days of intensive talks between the U.S. and EU.

Malmstroem, who returned to Brussels early Thursday, briefed European Union envoys on the situation ahead of the leaders summit in which the prospect of a transatlantic trade war is a top agenda item.

"If you have analyzed all the speeches by President Trump, he seems to think that, and I'm nearly quoting him, that the rest of the world is cheating the USA, that we have unfair trade practices", she added.

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The commission however has drawn up a list of potential counter-measures, including tariffs on peanut butter and Harley Davidson motorcycles, in case Trump follows through.

He said neighbors Canada and Mexico would be excluded amid ongoing talks to revise the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier had stressed in Berlin that "fighting until the last minute is worth it", with Germany especially anxious about its auto industry.

The close confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel reported a "very positive impression" of US Secretary Ross, who he also met earlier this week in Washington trip for last-minute talks.

"There still is one point we need to clarify - is the exemption conditional and if so what are these conditions", said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

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