Agreement allows duty-free access for limited amounts of EU-made metals and fends off retaliatory EU tariffs due in December
The US and EU have agreed to end a festering dispute over US steel and aluminium tariffs imposed by former president Donald Trump in 2018, removing an irritant in transatlantic relations and averting a spike in EU retaliatory tariffs, US officials have said.
Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters on Saturday that the deal would maintain US section 232 tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% aluminium, while allowing “limited volumes” of EU-produced metals into the US duty free.
It eliminates a source of friction between the allies and lets them focus on negotiating a new global trade agreement to address worldwide excess steel and aluminium capacity, mainly centred in China, and reduce carbon emissions from the industries.
EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis confirmed the deal, writing on Twitter that “we have agreed with US to pause” the trade dispute and launch cooperation on a future global arrangement on sustainable steel and aluminium. Dombrovskis said the deal will be formally announced by Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday.
US officials did not specify the volume of duty-free steel to be allowed into the US under a tariff-rate quota system agreed upon with the EU. Sources familiar with the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said annual volumes above 3.3m tons would be subject to tariffs.
The deal grants an additional two years of duty-free access above the quota for EU steel products that won Commerce Department exclusions in the past year, US officials said.
The agreement requires EU steel and aluminum to be entirely produced in the bloc – a standard known as “melted and poured” – to qualify for duty-free status. The provision is aimed at preventing metals from China and non-EU countries from being minimally processed in Europe before export to the US.
Europe exported about 5m tons of steel annually to the US prior to Trump’s imposition of the tariffs on national security grounds.
“The agreement ultimately to negotiate a carbon-based arrangement on steel and aluminium trade addresses both Chinese overproduction and carbon intensity in the steel and aluminium sector,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters, adding that the climate and workers can be protected at the same time.