EU countries to be exempt from US steel and aluminium tariffs for now

Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Korea will also be exempt when the measures come into effect tomorrow

EU countries to be exempt from US steel and aluminium tariffs for now

An employee in protective clothing takes a sample from the furnace at the steel producer, Salzgitter AG, in Salzgitter, Germany. Picture by: Markus Schreiber/AP/Press Association Images

A US official has said European countries will be exempt from new steel & aluminum tariffs when they come into force tomorrow.

Donald Trump announced the tariffs - 25% on steel imports and 10% on aluminum - earlier this month.

He claimed the measures are necessary to combat 'unfair trade practices' and to protect US national security.

The announcement sparked fears of a trade war, with a number of prominent Republican politicians among the opponents of the plan.

Several US companies - including Budweiser's parent company Anheuser-Busch - also raised concerns the move would hurt their industries.

The White House initially confirmed that Canada and Mexico - who are currently renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the US - would initially be exempt from the tariffs, but it has now been confirmed other countries will also escape the measures. 

Robert Lighthizer, the US Trade Representative, told lawmakers: "The idea that the President has is that based on a certain set of criteria that some countries should get out."

He explained that the US is negotiating with various countries, with those talks raising questions over how the tariffs would apply to those countries.

Mr Lighthizer said: "What [President Trump] has decided to do is to pause the imposition of the tariffs with respect to those countries.

"We have the two NAFTA countries... we have Europe, we have Australia, we have Argentina, we have Brazil, and obviously Korea where we're negotiating."

It is unclear how long the exemptions will last.

The tariffs come into effect from tomorrow, 15 days after President Trump formally authorised the controversial measures.