Amid President Trump’s announcement Thursday morning regarding the ongoing Section 301 investigation vis-a-vis Chinese trade practices, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee that the European Union and several other trading partners would be granted temporary exemptions from the administration’s Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs.
Other countries garnering temporary exemptions are South Korea, Australia, Argentina and Brazil.
The tariffs of 25% and 10% on steel and aluminum imports, respectively, are scheduled to go into effect Friday, March 23. Canada and Mexico previously gained temporary exemptions; North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation talks continue with those countries. In addition to NAFTA, the U.S. is also working to “refurbish” the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), Lighthizer said Wednesday during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on trade policy.
Countries have lobbied for exemptions in the weeks since Trump signed the proclamation setting the tariffs in motion.
In the ensuing weeks following the Section 232 tariffs announcement, trading partners have threatened retaliation. The E.U., for example, said it would hit back with tariffs on American products, like Kentucky bourbon, blue jeans and Harley-Davidsons.
The exemptions announcement came a day after U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and E.U. Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström issued a joint statement regarding impending discussions: “We have agreed to launch immediately a process of discussion with President Trump and the Trump Administration on trade issues of common concern, including steel and aluminum, with a view to identifying mutually acceptable outcomes as rapidly as possible.”
Lighthizer addressed the subject of potential exemptions during a trade policy agenda hearing Wednesday before the House Ways and Means Committee.
In a tweet, the European Steel Association (EUROFER) said it would comment on the news of the exemption “after the moment of imposition has occurred.”