"We look forward to continued negotiations with Canada and Mexico on one hand and with the European Commission on the other hand as there are other issues we need to get resolved", the commerce secretary said. Negotiations with Europe have "made some progress" but not enough to merit an exemption, he added.
European leaders have declared a "bad day for world trade" after the USA announced it will impose tariffs on metal imports from the EU.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, whom Ross was scheduled to meet in Paris on Thursday morning, said on Wednesday that the European Union did not want a trade war either but would respond if Washington imposed tariffs. "It's not about who attacks whom, and then wait and see who is still standing at the end".
Shares of US steel and aluminum producers gained on Thursday after the Trump administration moved ahead with tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, ending a two-month exemption.
But he said those talks were taking longer that "we had hoped".
Shares of American steel companies Steel Dynamics, AK Steel and US Steel gained between 3.4 percent and 7.4 percent and aluminum producer Alcoa surged 3.4 percent.
US to impose limits on some Chinese visas
Trump is also under pressure from Congress to stay tough on China, especially Chinese telecoms-equipment maker ZTE Corp. However, the big risk is that Beijing won't have any confidence in Ross to make a deal that Trump will accept.
He reiterated the USA concerns over the indirect flow of cheap Chinese steel into the US through other countries.
Stocks in the U.S. fell as the administration ignored the pleas from business lobbying groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to forego tariffs. "Trade wars don't have any winners".
EU-US tensions are casting a shadow over a meeting of finance ministers from the world's top economies which opens in a Canadian mountain resort on Thursday. We think on the contrary that global trade must have rules in a context of multilateralism. "We are getting ready to put in place safeguards, rebalancing measures because we won't let unjustifiable and unjustified measures go unanswered". And even that is subject to change as the Trump administration continues to dangle relief on steel and aluminum tariffs in exchange for other concessions.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed her opposition even before the US announcement, saying the looming tariffs were incompatible with World Trade Organization rules. "It's totally unacceptable that a country is imposing unilateral measures when it comes to world trade". "The president's overwhelming objective is to reduce our trade deficit".
In a clear reference to Trump, Macron added: "These solutions might bring symbolic satisfaction in the short term". The action was mainly targeted at China over accusations of flooding the global market with cut-rate metals and dragging down prices.
The three allies were previously given temporary exemptions from the duties - 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum.
"If any of these parties does retaliate, that does not mean that there can not be continuing negotiations", Ross said.