EU to host U.S., Japan on steel as U.S. tariffs loom

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will host her U.S. and Japanese counterparts in Brussels on Saturday, with impending U.S. tariffs on metal imports set to dominate talks.

The three blocs promised during a World Trade Organization meeting in Buenos Aires in December to work together to fight policies that have fuelled steel overcapacity, naming several key features of China’s economic system.

Overcapacity remains the main agenda item for Saturday, when Malmstrom will host Japanese trade minister Hiroshige Seko and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“It’s a continuation of the trilateral steel overcapacity talks that were kicked off in Buenos Aires. It’s been planned for several weeks,” a Commission official said on Thursday.

But U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign on Thursday or Friday a proclamation to establish tariffs on steel and aluminium imports..

The commission official said Saturday now offered “the big opportunity” to broach the issue “and to have a frank talk with Lighthizer about what’s been going on on their side and to reiterate what the counter-measures from us would be.”

The EU has said that global import tariffs are not the right answer to the sector’s problems, which it says are mainly down to overcapacity.

“It’s changed the circumstances of that meeting quite significantly of course since it was scheduled... The way forward for this trilateral cooperation has been in doubt given the last week’s developments,” the official added.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by John Stonestreet