The EU has been on tenterhooks amid fears of a global trade war since Trump this month suddenly announced steep duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium.
"Only reasonable that European Union seems to be omitted from tariffs based on national security grounds given that European Union and USA are close allies", tweeted Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen during a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels. "Sector-wide protection in the U.S. is an inappropriate remedy for the real problems of overcapacity".
Under EU law, firms like Google and Facebook can choose to book their income in any member state, prompting them to pick low-tax nations like Ireland, the Netherlands or Luxembourg.
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The exemption from tariffs, if it is confirmed, followed EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom's trip to Washington for talks with Lighthizer and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
"I have the impression that the USA leader wants to negotiate with the European Union by putting a gun to our head", Michel said as he arrived at the EU summit.More news: 'Jayalalithaa refused to go to hospital', claims Sasikala
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The plans were also announced at a time when digital firms are under huge pressure over data protection - given the row now engulfing Facebook over alleged misuse. "There still is one point we need to clarify - is the exemption conditional and if so what are these conditions", said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. We're expecting to see resistance to come from the industry and individual member states that have taxation ideas of their own. "The devil is sometimes in the details".
The European Commission has proposed that, if tariffs are imposed, the bloc should challenge them at the World Trade Organization, consider measures to prevent metal flooding into Europe and impose import duties on U.S. products to "rebalance" EU-U.S. trade. "We now look forward to pursuing a dialogue with the United States on trade issues of common concern, such as global steel overcapacity", she said on Twitter.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he expected a final announcement on USA tariffs late evening Brussels time.
The initial tax of 3 percent would be applied on revenues "created from activities where users play a major role in value creation and which are the hardest to capture with current tax rules", the Commission said.
"I have determined that the necessary and appropriate means to address the threat to the national security posed by imports from steel articles from these countries is to continue these discussions and to exempt steel articles imports from these countries from the tariff, at least at this time", according to Trump's proclamation released by the White House.
"We don't want a trade war, but. we are ready to take countermeasures", said Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, the EU's executive.