March 19, 2018

China's steel juggernaut: The 800-pound gorilla behind Trump's trade battle

15 March 2018, 03:42 | Devin Moran

Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona is pushing legislation in the U.S. Congress to block Donald Trump’s tariffs | Alex Wong Getty Images

Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona is pushing legislation in the U.S. Congress to block Donald Trump’s tariffs | Alex Wong  Getty Images

When Trump announced the 10 per cent tariffs on aluminium and 25 per cent on steel, he said Canada and Mexico could be exempted permanently if the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) is successful.

Trudeau made the call from Alma, Quebec where he was touring an aluminum smelter, according to a release by Trudeau's office.

He refused to directly criticise Mr Trump's much-maligned protectionist moves, however, saying he was "not going to lecture another country about what they do on trade".

He said he began talking about steel with Trump at the G7 summit in Sicily a year ago, when he was emphatic that Canada poses no national security threat to the U.S.

President Xi Jinping's top economic advisor, Liu He, held trade discussions with USA officials at the White House earlier this month but the meetings yielded few breakthroughs.

Last year, South Korean exports of steel products to the USA amounted to 3.54 million tons worth 3.2 billion United States dollars.

Cohn, a former Wall Street executive at Goldman Sachs, resigned last week because he was opposed to the tariffs. The administration has said these moves are a matter of national security, a nebulous argument that other countries could invoke as well if they chose to retaliate.

The EU has promised to respond to Mr Trump's stiff tariffs, warning that counter-measures would include European tariffs on U.S. exported orange juice, bourbon, denim, peanut butter and cranberries.

Trump has railed against major global trading partners, most recently by imposing a tariff on steel and aluminum exports, but granted an exemption to Canada and Mexico as the three countries approach a reorganization of NAFTA, the trade agreement Trump has threatened to tear up.

South Korea must demonstrate its ability to secure an exemption from the tariffs by March 23 when they will be enforced. Diplomatic and U.S. business sources say the United States has frozen a formal mechanism for talks on commercial disputes with China because it is not satisfied Beijing has met its promises to ease market restrictions.

Malmstroem said she told Lighthizer that "the European Union must be excluded" from tariffs because it is a close USA ally. Brazil, which is the second biggest supplier of steel to the United States after Canada, remains open for a dialogue to reach an understanding with the United States and is talking to other countries to learn about measures they are considering, he said.

The country is the world's biggest importer of steel, buying about 35 million tonnes of the commodity a year ago, according to Reuters. The US government believes such sales would make up only a marginal deficit and could put the US national security under threat. But they've stalled over tough United States demands, including the administration's insistence that more auto production be shifted to America.

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