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EU Working to Avoid New Tariffs on the U.S. Due in December, Trade Chief Says

Dursun Aydemir | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
  • The Donald Trump administration imposed a 25% tariff on European steel and 10% on aluminum in June 2018 on the grounds of national security.
  • However, the EU vehemently condemned the decision and decided to impose retaliatory sanctions on 2.8 billion euros ($3.2 billion) worth of U.S. products.

PARIS — The European Union is working hard to avoid a fresh round of tariffs on the United States, Europe's trade chief told CNBC Wednesday, as Trump-era disputes still linger between the two trading blocs.

The Donald Trump administration imposed a 25% tariff on European steel and 10% on aluminum in June 2018 on the grounds of national security. However, the EU vehemently condemned the decision and decided to impose retaliatory sanctions on 2.8 billion euros ($3.2 billion) worth of U.S. products.

In a sign of good faith, the EU in May delayed a second round of tariffs worth 3.6 billion euros. The idea has been to reach a solution with the Joe Biden administration before Dec. 1.

"The EU and the U.S. are strategic partners so it's very important that we cooperate, that we talk, even if there are some differences on some of the points," Valdis Dombrovskis, Europe's trade chief, told CNBC Wednesday at an OECD ministerial meeting in Paris.

"With the new Biden administration we already managed to ground the Airbus and Boeing dispute. We just successfully launched a trade and technology council in Pittsburgh. And now we are indeed working very intensively also to resolve this dispute left by the Trump era which is steel and aluminum tariffs."

Dombrovskis will discuss the issue with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Wednesday and has been in contact with other American officials, notably Gina Raimondo, head of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

When pressed if a breakthrough was likely before the end of November, he said: "That is what we are working for."

China

Speaking to CNBC at the same event, France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that the core issue is overcapacity in the steel and aluminum sectors, which actually originates in China.

"I'm deeply convinced that if we are all totally determined to find a compromise, there is a possibility, even on aluminum and steel, to avoid sanctions and to avoid a kind of new trade war between the two continents," he said.

"The key point are the overcapacities, and the overcapacities in the production of steel and aluminum are coming from China. This is not an issue between the U.S. and the EU," Le Maire said.

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