More than 100 prominent American retailers and footwear brands wrote to Trump on March 19 to urge him to reconsider tariffs he has threatened against China, saying that the measures he's expected to propose would end up punishing American shoppers, who would see major price increases.
Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, the EU's top trade official, is in Washington to meet US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other officials to unblock the issue.
In a joint statement following the meeting, the two said: "We have agreed to launch immediately a process of discussion with President Trump and the Trump administration on trade issues of common concern, including steel and aluminium, with a view to identifying mutually acceptable outcomes as rapidly as possible".
Trump's tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum enter force on Friday. The impact would hit the economy by $1.4 billion, or 8/1000th of 1 percent of US gross domestic product, the organization said.
Japan's economy minister and foreign affairs minister have met directly with U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer.
"If we want to negotiate something, we need more time", said Gabriel Felbermayr, director of Ifo Center for International Economics in Munich.
The EU has said it plans to impose safeguards but has not said how comprehensive they would be. The U.S. imports about triple that amount each from Japan, South Korea and Germany - also countries with military agreements with the U.S.
European Union leaders will discuss the tariffs on Thursday, hoping to avert a trade war while remaining determined to press on with free trade deals with the Mercosur countries of South America and Mexico.
Financial markets reacted to the Trump steel and aluminum tariffs with an initial sharp selloff, although they have since regained their poise.
Imports make up about one-fourth of USA steel consumption.
Lighthizer promised to strike back if China targets US farmers.
Officials from Hong Kong, which accounts for 0.2 percent of USA aluminum imports, said they have tried in vain to contact officials at the White House, State Department and other agencies seeking clarification. Applicants must complete a five-page Excel spreadsheet and file a separate form for "each distinct type and dimension of steel product to be imported", the department said.
"This looks much more like a president who is excessively eager to apply tariffs than a well-calculated move to defend American interests", Phil Levy, who was a trade adviser to President George W. Bush told the Washington Post. "Commerce knows how to do that, ' he said".