China calls for U.S. restraint on trade protectionism over steel, aluminium tariffs

The United States should remain restrained on trade protection and follow multilateral trade rules, China’s foreign ministry said after Washington announced it would impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium.

President Donald Trump said last week the United States would introduce a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent for aluminium on grounds of national security, a move which caused widespread concerns over fears of a global trade war.

China has stated its position on many occasions, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Friday.

China was frequently singled out by Trump during his election campaign, saying the bilateral trade relationship was “the greatest theft in the history of the world”.

“The U.S. has launched over a hundred anti-dumping and countervailing measures on most imported steel and aluminium products, providing overprotection for its domestic products,” Wang Hejun, head of the trade remedy and investigation bureau with the Ministry of Commerce, said earlier in a statement.

“If other countries follow the practice of the U.S., it will have a serious impact on international trade order.”

China urges the U.S. to use trade protection tools with restraint and comply with multilateral trade rules so as to make a positive contribution to international trade order, the foreign ministry spokesman said.

“The steel and aluminum products imported by the United States are middle- and low-end products for civil use, which by no means hurt U.S. national security,” Wang said.

Canada, the European Union, Brazil and South Korea have also expressed concerns over the U.S. move.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said US tariffs would be “absolutely unacceptable” and Japan’s steel industry also urged Trump not to impose steep tariffs on imports, warning it would have “serious harmful effects” on trade worldwide.

Canada has the largest share of steel imports to the US at 16%, according to data from the Department of Commerce. That is followed by Brazil and South Korea, with steel imports from China down 5% in the most recent period.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that the import restrictions announced by the U.S. president are likely to cause damage not only outside the U.S., but also to the U.S. economy itself, including to its manufacturing and construction sectors, which are major users of aluminium and steel.

“We are concerned that the measures proposed by the U.S. will, de facto, expand the circumstances where countries use the national-security rationale to justify broad-based import restrictions. We encourage the U.S and its trading partners to work constructively together to reduce trade barriers and to resolve trade disagreements without resort to such emergency measures,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said.

Uttara is a correspondent with Indoasiancommodities. You can write to her on uttara.malhotra@indoasiancommodities.in.

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