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EMERGING MARKETS-Latin American equities down as tariff fears heat up

(Updates prices, adds background on possible metal tariff exemptions) SAO PAULO, March 7 (Reuters) - Latin American markets and currencies were broadly down on Wednesday, after the departure of a high-ranking economic aide to U.S. President Donald Trump renewed fears of a global trade war.

On Tuesday, Gary Cohn, the top economic advisor to Trump and a voice for Wall Street in the White House, said he would resign, after he lost a fight with Trump over a plan for steel and aluminum import tariffs.

Investors widely interpreted the move as clearing the path for Trump to keep pushing for protectionist measures, sending stocks of steelmakers sliding.

Mexico's benchmark S&P/BMV IPC index led losses in the region, down 0.46 percent, as the American president is set to authorize the steep tariffs by the end of this week.

Mexican cement maker Cemex let losses on the index, with shares down more than 1 percent.

A White House spokeswoman suggested on Wednesday the possibility of excluding some countries from the tariffs, but did not go into further detail.

Brazil and Mexico, Latin America's two largest economies, are both major steel exporters to the United States.

Argentina's Merval stock index was down 0.37 percent on Wednesday, while Colombia's IGBC lost 0.31 percent.

In Brazil, Steelmakers Usinas Siderúrgicas de Minas Gerais SA fell 2.84 percent while Vale SA, a significant miner of steelmaking ingredient iron ore, was off 0.51 percent.

"The market improved yesterday on the possibility that the Trump administration might reverse its steel policy. But it became clear that he's not going to reverse that position," said Pedro Paulo Silveira, an economist at brokerage Nova Futura.

Chile's IPSA index was up just 0.01 percent, after the country posted its biggest trade surplus in four years in February thanks to strong copper exports.

Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 2148 GMT: Stock indexes Latest daily % change YTD % change MSCI Emerging 1189.20 -0.4 2.65 Markets MSCI LatAm 3085.38 -0.61 9.1 Brazil Bovespa 85483.55 -0.2 11.89 Mexico IPC 47662.12 -0.46 -3.43 Chile IPSA 5549.64 0.03 -0.27 Chile IGPA 27802.34 0.01 -0.64 Argentina MerVal 32743.55 -0.37 8.91 Colombia IGBC 11395.11 -0.31 0.22 Venezuela IBC 4868.07 2.7 285.39 Currencies Latest daily % change YTD % change Brazil real 3.2444 -0.05 2.12 Mexico peso 18.7135 0.15 5.27 Chile peso 602.6 -0.46 2.00 Colombia peso 2865.5 -0.44 4.07 Peru sol 3.253 -0.09 -0.49 Argentina peso 20.3950 -0.27 -8.80 (interbank) Argentina peso 20.45 -0.10 -5.97 (parallel) (Reporting by Gram Slattery in Sao Paulo and David Alire Garcia in Mexico City; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Susan Thomas)