May 17, 2018 / 9:16 AM / 4 days ago

EU should present offer to secure lower tariffs with U.S.: German minister

BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Union should present an offer to the United States to secure lower tariffs on a broad spectrum of goods and avoid a spiral of trade barriers, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Thursday.

U.S. President Donald Trump has imposed import duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum on grounds of national security, but granted EU producers a temporary exemption until June 1 pending the outcome of talks.

“I’m in favor of us Europeans putting an offer on the table,” Altmaier told a business conference in Berlin, adding he would prefer lowering overall tariffs than raising them on a broad spectrum of goods.

Despite business uncertainty about the U.S. tariffs and a weak start to the year, the German economy can still grow by 2.3 percent this year as projected by the government last month, Altmaier added.

The minister did not explicitly say when the EU should present its trade offer to Washington.

EU leaders meet in the Bulgarian capital on Thursday for discussions on how to avoid a trade war with the United States.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Sofia that the EU was willing to discuss cutting trade barriers with the United States, but only in a reciprocal way and only if Washington does not impose import tariffs on EU metals.

“We have a common position. We want a permanent exemption and then we are ready to talk how we can reciprocally reduce the barriers to trade,” Merkel said.

Reporting by Rene Wagner; Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Paul Carrel and Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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