US commerce secretary to hold virtual talks with UK on steel and aluminium tariffs

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US commerce secretary to hold virtual talks with UK on steel and aluminium tariffs

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is expected to hold virtual talks with British officials next month on U.S. steel and aluminium tariffs, a source familiar with the plans told Reuters on Thursday.

The U.K. is keen to negotiate a deal that would allow its steel and aluminum producers to enter the U.S. in bulk duty-free under the quota agreement Washington reached with the European Union in October.

The U.S.-EU deal, which came into effect on January 1, gives EU steelmakers a significant price advantage in the U.S. market over U.K. rivals, who are still subject to 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminium tariffs.

A Commerce Department spokesman declined to comment on plans for virtual talks.

However, the department had earlier said Raimondo was unable to travel to London in person at the invitation of UK Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan last month.

On Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative Dyche said the Biden administration would negotiate tariffs with Britain “in due course.”

While the Commerce Department has jurisdiction over the Cold War-era trade law authorizing country-based “Section 232” metals tariffs, the USTR played a key role in negotiating the terms of a quota agreement with the European Union that allowed about 4 million tons of steel imported from the EU enter the United States duty-free each year.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Thursday that Raimondo was understandably unable to commit to international travel due to uncertainty surrounding the Omicron coronavirus variant, but negotiations were urgently needed.

“We believe progress on this issue is urgently needed to lift the prospect of further retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods and look forward to virtual discussions with the U.S.,” he said.

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