U.S. trade chief says will engage on UK steel talks when ‘time is right’

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai addresses the Geneva Graduate Institute on the role of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the global economy and U.S. policy priorities ahead of the 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva, Switzerland October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

January 12, 2022

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai signaled on Wednesday that the United States is not rushing to complete a deal to ease tariffs on British steel and aluminum, saying that she will pursue these talks “when the time is right”.

Tai, speaking to an online event hosted by the Institute of International and European Affairs, an Irish think-tank, said the Biden administration will closely track developments between Britain and the European Union on Northern Ireland border issues. She added that she and President Joe Biden “care deeply about supporting the Good Friday Agreement” that maintains open borders.

Tai said it took six months to complete negotiations that led to a steel and aluminum trade deal with the European Union that gives EU steelmakers substantial duty free access to the U.S. market through a tariff-rate quota system. https://www.reuters.com/world/us-eu-expected-announce-deal-ending-steel-aluminum-tariff-dispute-sources-say-2021-10-30

USTR has formally started discussions with Japan on the U.S. ‘Section 232’ tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum, she said, adding with the UK, “it’s a matter of pragmatism.”

“We just need to have a process that makes sense, but the UK is very much on our minds and I am confident that we will take this up when the time is right,” Tai said in response to a question on why Washington has not yet eased tariffs on UK steelmakers.

She also said that talks with Britain on steel and aluminum will be grounded in the Biden administration’s efforts to deal with global excess capacity for the metals, largely centered in China.

(Reporting by David Lawder; additional reporting by Padraic Halpin and Graham Fahy; Editing by David Gregorio)

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