An expiration deadline for exemptions to U.S. steel and aluminium tariffs loomed on Monday, but U.S. allies and metals producers were still in the dark whether any countries would get extended relief, with the U.S. treasury secretary saying President Donald Trump had not made a decision.
Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminium in March, but granted temporary exemptions to Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the European Union, Australia and Argentina. He also granted a permanent exemption to South Korea.
The temporary exemptions will expire at 12:01 a.m. (0401 GMT) on Tuesday unless Trump extends them. Otherwise, the tariffs will go into effect.
"The president has not made any decision yet," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business Network in an interview that aired on Monday.
Mnuchin`s comments conflicted somewhat with comments by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who told Bloomberg News in an interview published on Sunday that the White House would continue granting some countries relief from the metals tariffs. Ross did not name the countries.
Steel industry officials said it was possible that some countries could receive longer exemptions, particularly Canada and Mexico, given that the tariff negotiations had become intertwined with talks about updating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that any move by the United States to impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium would be a "very bad idea" guaranteed to disrupt trade between the two countries.
Canada is the largest source of steel imports into the United States, with a steel industry that is highly integrated with its southern neighbour.
Trump administration officials have said that in lieu of tariffs, steel and aluminium exporting countries would have to agree to quotas designed to achieve similar protections for U.S. producers. South Korea`s permanent exemption is in exchange for having agreed to cut its steel exports to the United States by about 30 percent.
Trump has invoked a 1962 trade law to erect protections for U.S. steel and aluminium producers on national security grounds, amid a worldwide glut of both metals that is largely blamed on excess production in China.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom was due to speak with Ross on Monday in a last-ditch pitch for the 28 EU member countries. She has insisted on a permanent exemption without conditions.
"The only thing that I can tell you today is that we are patient but we are also prepared," European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news conference earlier on Monday.
If the EU is subject to tariffs on the 6.4 billion euros ($7.7 billion) of the metals it exports annually to the United States, it has said it will set its own duties on 2.8 billion euros of U.S. exports of products ranging from makeup to motorcycles.
(This article has not been edited by Zeebiz editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)