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German minister sees possible solution on US steel tariffs

© AFP | Newly named German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier walks in front of the White House after speaking to the press in Washington, DC, on March 19, 2018

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

A possible compromise could be reached as soon as this week between the European Union and United States over President Donald Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum, a German official said Monday.

Talks this week could make it "possible to find a solution that can still avoid a decline into a heavy trade conflict," German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told a gathering or reporters outside the White House.

He offered no details about any possible new arrangement but said US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shared his optimism.

"We had a very constructive preliminary exchange on all relevant matters in our economic relationships with an eye toward relaxing trade tensions," the officials said in a joint statement.

"We anticipate further discussions over the next few days."

US trading partners, industry, Republican lawmakers and markets have all been on tenterhooks amid fears of a global trade war since Trump suddenly announced steep duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, citing the need to protect US national security interests.

But after initially vowing to allow no exemptions, Washington has since said Canada and Mexico, major suppliers of the metals to US companies, will be exempt at least temporarily.

The Commerce Department on Monday also began accepting applications from US importers for exemptions on particular steel and aluminum products.

The department said this would help make the tariffs more targeted and reduce the likelihood of higher costs for manufacturers and retailers.

Industry representatives have continued lobbying the White House, hoping to pressure Trump into reversing course on the tariffs.

In a letter obtained Sunday by The Wall Street Journal, trade groups said the tariffs would cause "a chain reaction of negative consequences."

© 2018 AFP