But Ross said Thursday that those talks "are taking longer than we hoped".
The United States on Thursday said it will impose tariffs on aluminium and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, ending months of uncertainty about potential exemptions and reigniting fears of a global trade war.
"Global trade is not a gunfight at the OK Corral", France's finance minister quipped after meeting US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as reported by PTI.
The EU had said it wouldn't make trade concessions to gain a permanent exemption, and vowed to respond firmly to the imposition of tariffs.
Earlier this week, the administration also announced additional tariffs on China in an effort to combat the theft of US intellectual property and technology.
"We want to be exempt from these tariffs" which were "not compatible" with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, Merkel told a press conference with Portuguese premier Antonio Costa in Lisbon.
Other key European politicians are already threatening to retaliate in what could be an early salvo in a nascent trade war. Hurting US manufacturers even further, the countries hit by the tariffs will also tax imported US products.
On Wednesday, the Trudeau government said it would take additional steps to prevent foreign steel and aluminum from being dumped into the North American market - news that appeared created to try to head off the tariff decision.
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If he does impose the tariffs, the European Union has vowed to hit back with its own tariffs on American goods, including iconic items such as Harley-Davidson motorbikes, blue jeans and bourbon whiskey.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker only discovered the news when he was passed a note during a speech he was making in Brussels.
"We need to act vigorously to support our domestic industries, and to send a message to the USA administration that their unilateral protectionist measures will not come without a serious cost to themselves", Perrin Beatty, the chamber's president and CEO, said in a written statement.
The tariffs, which apply to a long list of US products that includes everything from flat-rolled steel to playing cards and felt-tipped pens, will go into effect July 1, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference Thursday.
Fears of a global trade war are mounting as the Trump administration also considers tariffs on USA auto imports and duties on US$50 billion in Chinese goods.
Dow Jones components Boeing (BA) and Caterpillar (CAT), heavy steel users vulnerable in a trade war, fell more than 1%.
"Without a strong economy, you can't have a strong national security", Ross said. "This is protectionism, pure and simple".
Europe also said it would start the process for enacting retaliatory tariffs.
"This is another negotiation tactic on the U.S. side because there are other negotiations going on".