China strongly opposes Trump's hefty tariffs on steel, aluminium imports

Hannah Rogers
March 11, 2018

President Donald Trump is after signing a proclamation to establish tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum at the White House in Washington, March 8, 2018.

The president's move to impose punitive tariffs is meant to fulfil a campaign promise to protect the U.S. steel industry and bring back jobs to numerous blighted Rust Belt communities in swing states that helped elect him in 2016.

The contentious tariffs come into effect in 15 days.

The president insisted, however, they are necessary to revive America's steel industry. "Therefore, it is actually shooting itself in the foot by increasing costs to the United States steel sector and U.S. manufacturing sector by 25%".

Railroad tracks run past the blast furnaces of the now-closed Bethlehem Steel mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, April 21, 2016.

Canada and Mexico will be exempt from the tariffs while negotiations continue over the North America Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

The EU said it was prepared to respond to any tariffs with counter-measures against US products such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Levi's jeans and bourbon. "We will be going to be doing a lot of them", Trump said.

The tariffs were based on national security grounds, but the majority of steel and aluminium was for civilian use, Wang Hejun, a senior official at the ministry said. "Global steel producers who have previously exported to the U.S. no longer can, because the prices are too high as a result of the tariffs", he added.

Malcolm Turnbull is pleased Donald Trump singled out Australia as a potential exemption from his steel tariffs, but says he will be "relentless" in making sure the deal is done. While China accounts for just a small portion of US imports, the Trump administration has said it diverts its shipments of the metals through other countries on the way to the U.S.

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The European Commission had already warned on Wednesday that if the United States went ahead with its plan, it would retaliate with increased tariffs on American goods such as Bourbon whiskey, Levis jeans, Florida orange juice and peanut butter.

"Steel tariffs didn't work when President Bush implemented them in 2002 or when President Obama proposed them on tires in 2009", he added. However, some economists fear that Trump will set off a wave of reprisal tariffs that will eventually damage the steel and aluminium industries in all countries.

The United States bought just 1.1 per cent of China's steel exports previous year compared with 12 per cent for South Korea and five per cent for Japan, according to the US International Trade Commission.

"Unfortunately, this happened; a lot of people were blindsided by this, so it's raised the specter of a trade war, which won't be good for anyone", Lynch said yesterday during an appearance on Boston Herald Radio.

Lynch, a former ironworker, acknowledged that some countries are flooding the USA with cheap steel, but stressed a more targeted approach would have been better.

The tariffs announced today appear to soften what Mr Trump billed last week as a global, "no-exceptions" move to protect the two industries under a 1962 national security trade law.

"If you really think there's going to be mass layoffs in the automotive industry over one half of 1 percent", he said, "you're wrong".

"We want our workers to be protected and we want, frankly, our companies to be protected".

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