Buenos Aires Times

economy US PROTECTIONISM

Trade envoy Braun optimistic US will drop aluminium, steel tariffs

"We received a positive reception" to our arguments from US officials, reveals Commerce secretary sent by Macri to push for an exemption on new steel, aluminium tariffs.

Tuesday 13 March, 2018
Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun.
Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun. Foto:FILE

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Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun this evening expressed optimism over Argentina's likelihood of securing an exemption from new US steel and aluminium duties on foreign imports, after having met with top-level White House officials earlier in the day.

“We received a positive reception to Argentina’s argument that its [steel and aluminum] exports aren't a threat to the US national security,” said Braun during a press conference at the Argentine Embassy, at which the Times was present 

Braun had just returned from meetings with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and USTR United State Trade representative, deputy C.J Mahoney. The meetings between the US and Argentine officials were brief but to the point, the Commerce secretary said, as the US government has yet to publish the formal procedures that countries petitioning for exemption must apply under.

“We are very optimistic that this will open a period to work together to achieve positive results,” said Braun, who was sent by President Mauricio Macri to Washington, after US President Donald Trump’s decision to sign a decree enforcing the tariffs last week.

The US Commerce Department has recommended slapping a 25 percent duty on aluminum imports and a 10 percent duty on steel imports. 

Although Trump will have the ultimate word about whether Argentina will be exempt or not, the recommendations presented to him by the Commerce secretary and USTR in favour of Argentina’s exemption could influence his decision.

Other exemptions

At the moment, the United States' neighbours Mexico and Canada have both received guarantees that their metal exports won’t be affected. Other closely allied states are also lobbying to obtain an exemption. 

The United States announced the protectionist measure earlier in the month, with Trump citing matters of national security. With this in mind, Braun said he had met with the US top-level officials yesterday seeking advice as to how Argentina should present its case.

“I think it will depend on how strong our effort is in demonstrating that we are working to ensure our mutual security – this measure is a security issue,” added Argentina's recently appointed Ambassador to the United States, Fernando Oris de Roa. 

A final evaluation will be submitted to Trump before the tariffs are put into place on March 23. However, Trump could delay the deadline if he so chose to. If Argentina were unable to obtain the exemption, seven percent of its total exports to the United States would be affected by the new measure. The decision holds less importance for Washington, however – US imports of Argentine steel and aluminum represent only 0.6 percent of the total steel the country imports and 2.3 percent of the aluminum it brings in. This is one of the primary arguments that Braun expressed to the United States. 

The Macri administration says that they will continue to push for an exemption, with the Embassy and the Foreign Ministry working to continue dialogue. Next week, on March 19 and 20, the heads of the G20 group of nation's respective finance ministries and central banks will meet in Buenos Aires for one of the G20's highest-profile events so far.

US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Governor Steven Kamin will both be in attendance, giving the Macri administration another chance to advocate personally in favour of an exemption.

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