USTR declines to confirm Brazil's claim that U.S. will suspend tariffs

BRASILIA, March 21 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Michel Temer said on Wednesday the United States would suspend steel and aluminum tariffs on the South American nation pending negotiations, but the office of the U.S. Trade Representative would not confirm that claim.

Temer made the announcement during an economic conference in Brasilia, saying that "the new tariffs ... will not be applied while we are talking on the issue."

A spokeswoman for the trade representative declined to confirm any decisions. "The president will make the final decisions on country exemptions," she said.

An exemption would require a presidential proclamation, which has not been made for any nations but Canada and Mexico.

Brazil is the No. 2 supplier of steel to the United States.

"We have to treat our relations with the United States with great care, because they are our biggest trade partner after China," Temer said last week at the World Economic Forum on Latin America.

But he added that if there was no "friendly" solution, Brazil would join other countries in filing a complaint to the World Trade Organization. (Reporting by Marcela Ayres, Leonardo Goy and Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia and David Chance in Washington Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Richard Chang)