Trump’s Steel, Aluminum Tariffs: China Unhappy, Japan, South Korea Considering WTO Complaint

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President Donald Trump announced Thursday a 25 percent duty on import of steel and 10 percent duty on aluminum import from all countries, except Canada and Mexico, since he is trying to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with the neighbors. But the new tariffs, especially those on steel, have caused negative reactions around the world, including from United States’ allies.

Japan and South Korea said Friday they were considering taking the U.S. to the World Trade Organization and filing complaints against Trump’s decision, which goes into effect two weeks later, with the forum.

During a press conference Friday, Japan’s minster for economy, trade and industry, Hiroshi Sei said the Japanese government regretted the imposition of the new import tariffs, and would consider “necessary measures in the framework of the World Trade Organization.”

Kosei Shindo, president of Nippon Steel Federation, said the move by the U.S. could lead to countermeasures being implemented by other countries around the world, which would go against the spirit of the free trade system.

Steel Production Steel slabs are seen at the Port Kembla steelworks in Wollongong, Australia, Nov. 27, 2017. Photo: AAP/Daniel Munoz/via Reuters

“We express regret over the U.S. government’s decision to impose tariffs on imported steel even though the Korean government has pointed out the problems of this action through various channels. If this action takes effect, it would inevitably deal a serious blow to South Korea’s steel exports to the U.S.” Paik Un-gyu, the country’s minister of trade, industry and energy, said in a meeting Friday with senior officials from Korean steelmakers.

Paik said the country would consider the WTO complaint if it wasn’t exempted from the new tariffs.

According to U.S. government data, South Korea is the third-largest exporter of steel to the country, following Canada and Brazil. Japan is at sixth place and China at seventh, with Turkey and Mexico being fourth and fifth.

China also expressed its “firm opposition” to the tariffs Friday. Wang Hejun, a senior official at the country’s Ministry of Commerce, said China would take its own measures to protect its interests, and urged the U.S. to revoke the new decision in order to respect the multilateral free-trade system.

Brazil’s foreign and trade ministries issued a joint statement Thursday, in which they said: “Brazil reaffirms that it will resort to all necessary actions, bilateral and multilateral, to preserve its rights and interests.”

WTO was invoked by Brazilians as well, with the country’s main industry lobby urging the government to approach the global trade forum.

The U.S. is the world’s largest importer of steel, importing about 36 million tons in 2017, valued at over $29 billion.

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