Argentina will be exempt at least temporarily from the harsh steel and aluminum tariffs US President Donald Trump has imposed, a top US trade official has said.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told a Senate committee that Trump authorised a "pause" in the imposition of the tariffs, which take effect Friday, while talks are underway to find a more permanent solution.
The European Union, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea will be exempt from the penalties of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum, along with the EU, he said.
Washington already had announced that major metals exporters Canada and Mexico would be exempt as talks continue to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.
And this week EU and US officials issued a joint statement saying they were working toward a solution to avoid tariffs on the trading bloc.
"The idea that the president has is that, based ona certain set of criteria, that some countries should get out," Lighthizer said in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee.
"There are countries with whom we're negotiating" and there will be "a pause in imposition of tariffs with respect to those countries," he said.
Many countries, including the EU, have warned the White House that they will retaliate forcefully if they are face with tariffs on metals products.
Argentine firms, in particular, would be hit hard by the move – in 2015, the country exported US$320 million and US$493 million of aluminium and steel respectively to the US.
In an interview yesterday, Argentine Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun – who was sent by President Mauricio Macri to Washington in the immediate aftermath of news of tariffs being made public – said that the US government was leaning toward looking at the issue on a case-by-case basis, rather than by country.
The Trump administration has stressed that the primary target is China, which has long had massive overproduction that has impacted the global market for steel and aluminum, which poses a national security threat to the US economy.