EU thinks conditions Trump setting to extend tariff exemption unacceptable: report

U.S. President Donald Trump signs autographs for children of staff and press at the White House on "take your child to work day" in Washington. U.S., April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Commission believes U.S. President Donald Trump is setting unacceptable conditions for the European Union to get a permanent exemption from steel and aluminum tariffs, a German newspaper reported on Thursday.

The United States imposed import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in March on aluminum on grounds of national security, but it provided a temporary exemption until May 1 for the European Union.

Citing an internal paper from the European Council on the state of discussions with the United States, the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had asked European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom to provide a joint statement by May 1 with key points on bilateral trade negotiations to extend the exemption.

The newspaper said the European Commission was still optimistic the exemption would be extended and cited the European Council paper as saying Malmstrom and Ross would speak again by telephone this week.

It said that during their last phone call Ross had demanded that the EU voluntarily limit exports of steel and aluminum to the United States to 90 percent of the average 2016/2017 level, which it said amounted to a 16.3 percent reduction.

The newspaper said the Commission had rejected the demands as unacceptable.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to hold talks on trade with Trump in Washington on Friday. A senior German government official said on Thursday that Germany expected U.S. tariffs on European steel and aluminum products to kick in on May 1.

The European Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the newspaper report.

Reporting by Michelle Martin in Berlin and Robin Emmott in Brussels, editing by Larry King