Trump's steel tariff wrong way to deal with problem

The Associated Press

The tariff - which Mr Trump said was aimed at protecting national security and American jobs - could trigger a full-blown trade war if the European Union responds with countermeasures.

The announcement has drawn widespread criticism and warnings from other Republicans, business and agriculture leaders and US trading partners, who say it could lead to a trade war and ultimately hurt American workers.

After the signing ceremony, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the EU should also be exempt from the ruling because it is a close ally of the US.

Any decision on carve outs "would be country-by-country, and it will be based on national security", she said, noting that she was "not aware" of any complaints filed at the World Trade Organization against the tariffs.

But the TDRI's Wisarn says the economic growth in Southeast Asia in the past decade, with its focus on China, will shield the region from major moves by the U.S.to boost trade protectionism.

Lighthizer, a loyalist to Trump's "America First" mantra, made no official comment after the talks, but the three sides did agree on a series of next steps to address the oversupply worldwide of steel and other materials, mainly by China. "NAFTA discussions will be part of that only because NAFTA is an important part of the security relationship within the hemisphere". Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Japan's steel and aluminum shipments posed no threat to US national security.

Unifor, which represents 40,000 Canadians in the auto industry, says the exclusion of tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum exports to the U.S.is simply a stay of execution.

But the Saturday meetings in Brussels, the capital of the European Union, appeared to be inconclusive.

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European Commissioner Malmstrom, who coordinates policy for the 28-nation EU, the world's biggest trading bloc, said she stood ready to go to the WTO, the worldwide trade arbiter, to impose the bloc's own safeguards within 90 days.

EU President Donald Tusk on Wednesday warned Trump that "trade wars are bad and easy to lose", directly rebuffing the United States leader's claim last week they were "good and easy to win".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged dialogue and warned that "no one can win in such a race to the bottom". Shares in European steel makers fell, although Germany's two biggest producers, Thyssenkrupp and Salzgitter, have insisted the impact on them will be limited. China is also the potential target of far more wide-ranging US action over what Washington says is its theft of intellectual property and coercion of USA firms to share commercial secrets.

China's Ministry of Commerce said China would assess any damage caused by the USA move and "firmly defend its legitimate rights and interests".

But the same official said it truly is a matter of national security - with six US aluminum smelters shutting down the last few years, and just five remaining, and only two operating at full capacity, he said that leaves the U.S.at risk of having to import all its aluminum eventually. Trump has championed coal exports as demand from power firms at home weakens.

A Eurofer spokesman also warned that the US's punitive tariffs not only make market access more hard for European steel but could flood Europe with imports from other nations unable to get into the United States market, pushing prices down and endangering EU jobs.

Earlier, during a cabinet meeting, Trump vowed flexibility on the trade barriers, telling reporters that he could change the tariffs "up or down depending on the country".

"He and I have a good relationship because we wrestle a lot and he knows where I stand", Sasse told The World-Herald.

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