Talks with EU could be alternative to auto import tariffs, U.S.’s Ross tells Financial Times



Kanishka Singh, Tom Hogue, and Clarence Fernandez | Reuters

(Reuters) – New negotiations with the European Union could be an alternative to imposing tariffs on automotive imports next month, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has suggested in an interview with the Financial Times published on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump declared this year that some imported vehicles and parts posed a national security threat, but delayed a decision until November on whether to impose tariffs, so as to allow for more time for trade talks with the European Union.

“One (option) would be to say, ‘I’m just not going to do anything’, the second would be to impose tariffs on some or all (countries) . . .  the third might be some other form of negotiation,” Ross said, describing options being considered by Trump.

On Friday, the United States began slapping tariffs on EU imports worth an annual $7.5 billion, ranging from British whisky and French wine to Spanish olives and cheese from across the bloc, including Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ross dismissed criticism of the step, saying the tariffs were not imposed unilaterally and that the measure was taken with the “full support” of the World Trade Organization.

Commenting separately on trade talks with China, Ross said China was following through “in good faith” on assurances given in October to press ahead with large purchases of U.S. farm products.

As the Trump administration’s general license for U.S. companies to sell to telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies expires in November, Ross told the newspaper this was not a hard deadline and could be altered.

“The deadlines are within our control, we can shorten them, we can lengthen them, we can do whatever – at this point they are being treated separately and independently from the trade talks,” Ross said.

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