President Donald Trump is facing a critical decision regarding recently announced steel and aluminum tariffs, and the choice could determine whether or not the USA throws itself into a trade war with some of its closest allies.
Trump officials initially said there would be no exemptions, sparking an outcry from Europe and also some Republicans on Capitol Hill concerned that the retaliatory measures would hurt home state industries.
The EU has threatened to set duties on €2.8bn (£2.5bn) of USA exports if it is subject to the metal tariffs. South Korea made up the largest share, shipping about 13 percent of US imports, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute analysis of government data.
The Trump administration said that it had reached an agreement in principle with three other countries that had received a similar tariff exemption - Australia, Argentina and Brazil - and that these deals would be finalized in the next 30 days.
U.S. President Donald Trump last month granted the European Union, and countries such as Canada and Mexico, a temporary exemption from the tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium.
European Trade Commissioner Malmstrom was due to talk by phone with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday in a last effort to persuade Washington to do so. Otherwise, the tariffs will go into effect. Harley-Davidson Inc. and bourbon are both on the list of goods that could be hit, pressuring Republican speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, who hails from the Wisconsin home of the motorcycle maker, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, from Kentucky, where the whiskey is made. The quota deal came as part of a broader renegotiation on the US and South Korea's bilateral trade deal, KORUS.
President Donald Trump will decide by midnight Monday if the US will slap permanent aluminum and steel tariffs on the European Union.
The steel threat has complicated talks with Canada and Mexico on a revised North American Free Trade Agreement.
Ross also said last week that nations have been asked to accept import quotas in return for tariff-free access of the metals into the U.S. But that suggestion puts the European Union in the hard position of either succumbing to U.S. demands that could breach trade rules or face punitive tariffs.
Trade relations between China and the United States have deteriorated in recent weeks.
"If you let everybody back out of the tariff, and you let them out of any kind of quota, how would you ever reduce the imports here?"