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US, EU pledge to find 'acceptable outcomes' on metal tariffs

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Washington (AFP)

The United States and the European Union are launching a fresh round of talks in order to reach a "mutually acceptable" solution on trade disputes including steel and aluminum tariffs, officials from Washington and Brussels said Wednesday.

The announcement comes after talks between US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and visiting EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, and with steep new US import duties on steel and aluminum due to take effect later this week.

Ross and Malmstroem said they had "agreed to launch immediately a process of discussion... on trade issues of common concern, including steel and aluminum, with a view to identifying mutually acceptable outcomes as rapidly as possible."

Washington has already said Canada and Mexico, which are major producers of the metals, will temporarily be exempt from the tariffs during talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But other trading partners have peppered Washington with requests that they too be excluded from the punishing new tariffs of 10 percent on aluminum and 25 percent on steel.

Malmstroem had already said Europe should be exempted as a whole.

In congressional testimony earlier Wednesday, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Washington was currently discussing tariff exemptions with Australia, Argentina and Brazil.

The talks should be finished by the end of April, Lighthizer said.

Meanwhile, Trump is expected to raise the temperature on trade this week yet again by unveiling a new package of retaliatory trade measures on Chinese imports to punish Beijing for the alleged "theft" of American companies' intellectual property.

The Trump administration's aggressive moves on trade have stoked alarm among lawmakers in the president's own party, as well as industry groups, who say the measure exposes the United States to higher prices and retaliation.

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