USA talks on trade tariffs 'frank' but bring no immediate clarity

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday

Both powers, two of the biggest trade partners with the United States, have asked for exemptions from the tariffs.

Mr Trump's announcement of import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium has sparked fears of a trade war.

After Trump opened the door, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Europe clamoured for special treatment, while Chinese producers called on Beijing to retaliate in kind.

Malmstrom said Friday in Brussels, "We hope that we can get confirmation that the European Union is excluded from this".

So far, the US, which granted exemptions to Canada and Mexico, and has signalled a potential exemption for Australia, has made no mention of excluding Europe or Britain from the new tariff arrangements.

The EU and Japan past year formally agreed the broad outlines of a landmark trade deal that was announced as a direct challenge to the protectionism championed by Trump. But since Trump signalled that exemptions were possible, reaction has been measured, and counter threats have been carefully calibrated so far. According to the group, Trump's decision is "undermining the WTO rules and disrupting the global trade order". "In particular, they pale in comparison to the scale and scope of the protectionist policies of President Ronald Reagan's administration in the 1980s", Rodrik wrote on Friday.

Trump imposed the tariffs despite pleas from friends and allies who warned the new measure could ignite a trade war.

Katainen said Brussels wanted "clarity" on how the tariffs will be implemented and was ready to enforce retaliatory measures to protect European interests if needed.

This shed some light on the tycoon's specific barbs against Germany - the biggest economy in the European Union - that have finger-pointed Berlin for contributing much less than the United States towards the funding of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Media captionUS tariffs: What do we need to know?

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that the EU was a close ally of the United States and should also be exempt from metals tariffs.

The EU is arguing that it has a long-standing security alliance with the USA and is co-operating to address the issue of overcapacity in the steel sector.

The European Union and Japan are seeking to be excluded from U.S. steel and aluminium tariffs in talks with U.S. President Donald Trump's trade envoy on Saturday, with the EU warning it will retaliate if Washington does not relent.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged dialogue and warned that "no one can win in such a race to the bottom".

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