Tariffs Shouldn’t Stop us From Negotiating, Wilbur Ross Tells the EU

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has criticized the European Union for defying trade negotiations while China was willing to hold talks, CNBC informed.

“China are paying their tariffs,” Ross told the panel at an economic development forum in Paris on Wednesday, in a response to the EU criticism of the import tariffs the White House revealed on its trade partners all over the world in March.

“China hasn’t used that as an excuse not to negotiate… It’s only the EU that is insisting we can’t negotiate if there are tariffs,” he added.

President Donald Trump’s protectionist move, which would introduce a 25 percent fee on all steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum, drew harsh criticism upon its announcement from Republicans and Democrats alike and saw trade partners threatening to get even. The administration has postponed the introduction of the tariffs, extending negotiations with partners Canada, the EU and Mexico by 30 days to the tail end of May. Leaders now wait what the decision from Washington would be.

EU lawmakers issued a statement that they are open to discussions, but would not “negotiate under threat” — this was reiterated by Dutch Foreign Trade and Development Minister Sigrid Kaag, also on the panel, who expressed a stark difference in opinion from her American counterpart.

“EU leaders have expressed the expectation that there should be an unlimited exemption,” Kaag said in response to Ross, pointing out that the U.S. and Europe are historic allies across a number of areas from trade to security, making them a wholly different case to China.

“We’re finding ourselves in a situation we shouldn’t be at,” she said, adding that, “dialogue with the U.S. remains primordial… the fact China continues negotiations I don’t think applies to us in this case, I don’t think that’s an argument. I understand, but I disagree.”

Kaag said that the European bloc would wait for a decision in the coming days, saying that the U.S. remains a very important partner and that she believed they would find a way forward.

“I’m sure we will, and there can be negotiations with or without tariffs in place,” Ross said. “God knows, there are plenty of tariffs the EU has on us. So it’s not that you can’t talk just because there are tariffs.”

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