Buenos Aires Times

economy TRADE PROTECTIONISM ROW

Commerce Secretary ‘optimistic’ Argentina will win exemption on US tariffs

Miguel Braun says Macri administration will “produce the best arguments to defend our companies and workers.”

Saturday 17 March, 2018
Fernando Oris de Roa and Miguel Braun pictured at the Argentine Embassy in Washington this week.
Fernando Oris de Roa and Miguel Braun pictured at the Argentine Embassy in Washington this week. Foto:SANTIAGO DEL CARRIL

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Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun says he is “optimistic” over Argentina’s likelihood of securing an exemption from new US steel and aluminium duties on foreign imports.

“We received a positive reception to Argentina’s argument that its [steel and aluminum] exports aren’t a threat to the US national security,” said Braun during a press conference at the Argentine Embassy, at which the Times was present.

Braun had just returned from meetings with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and USTR United State Trade representative, deputy C.J Mahoney. The meetings between the US and Argentine officials were brief but to the point, the Commerce secretary said, as the US government has yet to publish the formal procedures that countries petitioning for exemption must apply under.

“We are very optimistic that this will open a period to work together to achieve positive results,” said Braun, who was sent by President Mauricio Macri to Washington, after US President Donald Trump’s decision to sign a decree enforcing the tariffs last week.

The US Commerce Department has recommended slapping a 25 percent duty on aluminum imports and a 10 percent duty on steel imports.

Although Trump will have the ultimate word about whether Argentina will be exempt or not, the recommendations presented to him by the Commerce secretary and USTR in favour of Argentina’s exemption could influence his decision.

At the moment, the United States’ neighbours Mexico and Canada have both received guarantees that their metal exports won’t be affected. Other closely allied states are also lobbying to obtain an exemption.

‘NATIONAL SECURITY’

The US s announced the protectionist measure earlier in the month, with Trump citing matters of national security. With this in mind, Braun said he had met with the US top-level officials yesterday seeking advice as to how Argentina should present its case.

“I think it will depend on how strong our effort is in demonstrating that we are working to ensure our mutual security – this measure is a security issue,” added Argentina’s Ambassador to the United States, Fernando Oris de Roa.

A final evaluation will be submitted to Trump before the tariffs are put into place on March 23. However, Trump could delay the deadline if he so chose to. If Argentina were unable to obtain the exemption, seven percent of its total exports to the United States would be affected by the new measure.

The Macri administration says that they will continue to push for an exemption, with the Embassy and the Foreign Ministry working to continue dialogue. Next week, on March 19 and 20, the heads of the G20 group of nation’s respective finance ministries and central banks will meet in Buenos Aires for one of the G20’s highestprofile events so far.

US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Governor Steven Kamin will both be in attendance, giving the Macri administration another chance to advocate personally in favour of an exemption.

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