U.S. Metal Tariffs Hit Canada and Mexico, Pressuring Nafta Talks

Jean-Claude Juncker was speaking in Strasbourg this morning

And President Donald Trump has the authority to alter the tariffs or impose quotas or "do anything he wishes at any point" - allowing "potential flexibility" to resolve the issue.

Among the concessions the Trump administration is seeking is an agreement on a quota that would limit European steel and aluminium exports to the U.S. while also wanting the 10 percent auto tariff to be lowered, for which it would be ready to grant an exemption to the EU from the steel tariff.

Qualtrough said the federal government is working to remind its US counterparts of this, and said there are contingency plans in place.

"We are alienating all of our friends and partners at a time when we could really use their support", said Wendy Cutler, a former USA trade negotiator who is now vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute. "I have argued for the European Union and the United States to engage in a positive trans-Atlantic trade agenda, and for the European Union to be fully, permanently and unconditionally exempted from these tariffs".

"This is protectionism, pure and simple", he said.

The expansion builds on new funding announced in late April of an initial outlay of more than $30 million over five years to hire 40 new officers to investigate trade-related complaints, including those linked to steel and aluminum.

The Mexican government said that the USA action was not justified, and that it would retaliate with its own comparable penalties on U.S. lamps, pork, fruit, cheese and flat steel.

The countermeasures will hit USA hot and cold rolled steel, plated steel and tubes, the ministry said.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the president acted on national security grounds, seeing a rising tide of imports as a threat to the domestic metals industry.

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The U.S. tariffs - 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum - take effect at midnight Thursday.

European Union countries have given broad support to the Commission's plan to set duties on 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) of US exports, including whiskey and motorbikes, if Washington ends the European Union tariff exemption.

Trump imposed the steel and aluminum penalties under a 1962 law that gives the president broad power to increase or reduce tariffs on goods deemed critical to national security.

That announcement came about a month after the Canada Border Services Agency was granted extra powers to identify businesses that try to dodge import duties and ship cheap foreign steel and aluminum through the Canadian market.

Yet Canada is also, far and away, the largest export market for US steelmakers.

"If any of these parties does retaliate that does not mean there can not be continuing negotiations", Ross said.

"There are still a lot of debates going on in Europe", said Guntram Wolff, director of the Bruegel Institute, a Brussels-based think tank.

Ross said retaliatory measures by Canada and Mexico won't affect the NAFTA talks.

"We take the view that without a strong economy, you can't have strong national security", he said.

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