Chemical industry slams Trump steel tariffs

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order exempting Australia from new steel and aluminium tariffs.

But they appeared to win no quick concessions.

"As long-standing security partners of the United States, (the European Union and Japan) underlined to ambassador Lighthizer their expectation that European Union and Japanese exports to the USA would be exempted from the application of higher tariffs", an European Union statement said after the talks.

Brussels has pushed back the hardest against Washington's shock measures, loudly announcing a list of USA products - including peanuts and motorcycles - it could hit with countermeasures.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also urged negotiations amid fears of a tit-for-tat war that could result in higher prices and reduced growth around the world.

At talks in Brussels, economy ministers underlined that the European Union - the world's biggest trading bloc - supports free and open trade but that its 28 countries will respond if they are targeted by the US tariffs, which are set to enter force next week.

"There are no winners in a trade war, and it would bring disaster to our two countries as well as the rest of the world", Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan said at a briefing on the sidelines of China's annual parliamentary session. While the Trump highlighted the nations' military and trade relationships, Turnbull moved to clarify Trump's comment about a new "security agreement", saying the president was referring to the legal paperwork that would lock the exemption into place. Not fair or sustainable.

When President Trump points to examples of how the US has lost out from previous trade deals by accepting higher import tariffs for its exports than it sets itself he is merely stating the facts. This is the United States' third-largest trade deficit, behind those with China and Mexico.

An expert on Canada-U.S. relations says Donald Trump has Canada and Mexico right where he wants them as the three countries continue their attempts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

She argues that since European Union companies are not state subsidised or in overcapacity, they can't be considered a source of "unfair trade" with the US.

There is a trade deficit with the United States, meaning more American products and services are bought down under than sent the other way.

The European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 28-nation EU, the world's biggest trading bloc, has said it is ready to impose safeguards, tariffs or quotas to protect its own steel and aluminum industries from products diverted to Europe because of the U.S. measures. India holds the ninth position in the list of trading partners that run a trade surplus with the US, China, Mexico, and Japan is on top of the list.

The US is the world's biggest importer of steel, purchasing 35 million tons of raw material in 2017. After a meeting with Lighthizer over the weekend Cecilia Malmström, the European Union's top trade official, said there was still "no immediate clarity on the exact US procedure for exemption", so the discussions will continue this week.

The US President on Thursday signed a proclamation that sets the tariff on imports of steel at 25% and on aluminum at 10%, to be effected in 15 days.

  • Zachary Reyes