U.S. levies steel, aluminum tariffs on allies, risks trade war
31 May, 2018, 19:31
Through the first three quarters of 2017, the USA ran a relatively minor trade deficit with Canada of about a half-million metric tons, according to Department of Commerce data.
The Trump administration ratcheted up the brinkmanship Thursday by announcing new duties on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico - after failing to reach deals with them to address national security concerns related to the imports.
The Mexican measures, which target pork legs, apples, grapes and cheeses as well as steel, could hit farm states that are a bastion of support for U.S. President Donald Trump, ahead of American midterm elections in November.
During a discussion panel at an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris on Wednesday, Mr Ross said negotiations could continue, even with tariffs in place. "The UK and other European Union countries are close allies of the United States and should be permanently and fully exempted from the American measures on steel and aluminium", Britain said in a statement. "This is protectionism, pure and simple". Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Mexico said it would penalize USA imports including pork bellies, apples, grapes, cheeses and flat steel.
During a conference call early Thursday, Ross shrugged off questions about the US facing possible retaliation, or whether the move would negatively affect the G7 meeting.
Friday's deadline for exemptions also affects Mexico and Canada, which are in negotiations with the United States on the North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump has said he wants to revamp, or abandon if the talks fail.
Steel producers across the European Union were granted a temporary exemption from the tariffs while the USA tried to persuade the European Union to cut steel production or make other concessions.
"Our members could face having to pay double tariffs on some materials necessary to manufacture parts in the U.S.", said a statement from the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association.
Despite media speculations that the U.S. could possibly introduce long-term exemptions from the tariffs for its close allies, Trump has opted for moving ahead with steel and aluminium duties.
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However, reports have suggested that last-minute talks in Paris had failed, with Wilbur Ross, the US Commerce Secretary, indicating that he was poised to impose the tariffs.
Trump imposed the tariffs in March to address global oversupply of the metals, but though it was largely aimed at China it hit USA allies as well.
"If any of these parties does retaliate that does not mean there can not be continuing negotiations", Ross said.
President Trump had announced the tariffs in March, but gave several US allies temporary exemptions while they negotiated potential limits on shipments to the United States.
With negotiations going nowhere, Trump chose to go forward with the tariffs.
That announcement came about a month after the Canada Border Services Agency was granted extra powers to identify businesses that try to dodge import duties and ship cheap foreign steel and aluminum through the Canadian market.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed her opposition even before the US announcement, saying the looming tariffs were incompatible with World Trade Organization rules. He offered little detail about what the EU, Canada and Mexico could do to have the tariffs lifted. European officials argue that tit-for-tat tariffs will hurt growth on both sides of the Atlantic and Canada said before the announcement that it would respond in kind.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who pushed the steel and NAFTA issues during her meeting on Tuesday in Washington with USA trade czar Robert Lighthizer, has also made it clear that Canada would retaliate if the duties are imposed.
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