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Countries Asking U.S. for Tariff Exemptions

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European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is continuing to petition the United States for exemptions to the upcoming steel and aluminum tariffs. Politico quotes her as saying the tariffs will shake the transatlantic relationship between the countries if they go into effect. She told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during a phone call that the EU “as a close security ally of the U.S., expects to be fully excluded from these measures as a whole.”

Brazil’s Ambassador to the U.S. recently laid out an argument that could possibly fit well with the five criteria the U.S. is said to be looking at in the exemption process. The lobbying blitz to avoid the upcoming tariffs also includes Hong Kong. That country’s Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development implored the U.S. to exempt the island nation from the “totally unjustified” aluminum duties until they can engage in a full dialogue with the U.S prior to any unilateral action. The Secretary points out that Hong Kong is the economy with which the U.S. has the highest trade surplus. Hong Kong will fight the duties both at the World Trade Organization level, where it’s already expressed formal concern, as well as through bilateral discussions with the U.S.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing Thursday, March 22, regarding the Trump Administration’s trade policy. The Hagstrom Report says that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will be the lone witness at the proceedings. The committee chair, Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, has been critical of President Donald Trump’s announced trade tariffs. Hatch says in a news release, “After the biggest tax rewrite in more than three decades, it is essential that the president’s trade agenda builds on the pro-growth, pro-jobs success.” Hatch says he and Trump both share the same goal of making trade work for all Americans. The best way to do that is by pursuing new trade deals that will open up new markets for American goods and services, boosting access to new customers.

Hatch adds, “I have made it clear that tariffs are nothing but a tax on American businesses and consumers and I look forward to discussing with Ambassador Lighthizer how the administration can mitigate the damage they cause. Committee members will also have the opportunity to ask the ambassador more about how the administration would use an extension of bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority, which it requested in its Trade Policy Agenda.”