WASHINGTON – The United States Department of Commerce announced on Thursday that a temporary exemption from US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico would be allowed to expire, a decision that is likely to further exacerbate trade tensions and trigger retaliatory measures.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters in a conference call that the US had decided to no longer exempt the EU, Canada and Mexico from a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports, duties that have already been imposed on countries including China, Japan and Russia.
The latest exemption from the global tariffs, which US President Donald Trump had announced on March 8 in fulfillment of a key campaign promise, had been due to expire on June 1.
Steel and aluminum from the EU, Canada and Mexico will be subject to the US tariffs starting Friday.
Ross, who has been heading up discussions on a new trade arrangement with the EU, said that not enough progress has been made to maintain the temporary exemptions or advance toward definitive exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs.
Mexico, meanwhile, announced Thursday that it would take retaliatory measures.
“In response to the tariffs imposed by the United States, Mexico will impose equivalent measures on a range of products,” the Economy Secretariat said in a bulletin, specifically mentioning imports of US products such as flat steel and pork bellies.
The EU also vowed to respond to what it said was an unwarranted move by the US.
“The EU believes these unilateral US tariffs are unjustified and at odds with World Trade Organization rules,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said in a statement.
“It’s a bad day for world trade. US leaves us no choice but to proceed with a WTO dispute settlement case and the imposition of additional duties on a number of US imports,” he added.