Asia fears trade war after US President Trump to impose hefty steel, aluminum tariffs

President Donald Trump announces that the US will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington. (Reuters)
Updated 02 March 2018
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Asia fears trade war after US President Trump to impose hefty steel, aluminum tariffs

SEOUL/SYDNEY: US President Donald Trump’s planned tariffs on steel and aluminum will distort global trade and cost jobs, Australia’s trade minister said on Friday, highlighting the risk of retaliatory measures as Asian exporters sought more detail on the plans.
Fears of an escalating trade war hit the share prices of Asian steelmakers and manufacturers supplying US markets particularly hard on Friday following a rough night on Wall Street.
Trump said the duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum would be formally announced next week, although White House officials later said some details still needed to be ironed out.
“The imposition of a tariff like this will do nothing other than distort trade and ultimately, we believe, will lead to a loss of jobs,” Australian trade minister Steven Ciobo told reporters in Sydney.
“My concern remains that on the back of actions like this we could see retaliatory measures that are put in place by other major economies. That is in no-one’s interest.”
Australia, which has championed the free-trade Trans Pacific Partnership that Trump pulled the US out of, has sought an exemption for its steel and aluminum to the US, Ciobo added.
Steel has become key focus for Trump, who pledged to restore the US industry and punish what he sees as unfair trade practices, particularly by China.
Although China only accounts for 2 percent of US steel imports, its massive industry expansion has helped produce a global glut of steel that has driven down prices.
“The impact on China is not big,” said Li Xinchuang, vice secretary-general of the China Iron and Steel Association. “Nothing can be done about Trump. We are already numb to him.”
South Korea, the third-largest steel exporter to the US after Canada and Brazil, said it will keep talking to US officials until Washington’s plans for tariffs are finalized.
“For us, the worst-case scenario was a 54 percent tariff,” said a South Korean trade ministry official who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to media. “Still if the option for a global tariff of at least 24 percent is taken, that will still affect our steel exports to the US.”
South Korean trade minister Kim Hyun-chong has been in the US since February 25, the trade ministry said. Kim has met US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other officials to raise concerns over the so-called Section 232 probe and consider a plan that would minimize the damage to South Korean companies.
Asian steelmakers fear US tariffs could result in their domestic markets becoming flooded with steel products that have nowhere else to go.
“We are concerned about how other exporters react, what will happen with steel that cannot be sold to the US,” Vikrom Wacharakrup, Chairman of Iron and Steel Industry Group, Federation of Thai Industries, said. Thailand exports steel mainly to Asia but also the US.
The Trump administration also cited national security interests for its action, saying the US needs domestic supplies for its tanks and warships.
Contrary to the action announced by Trump on Thursday, the Department of Defense had recommended targeted steel tariffs and a delay in aluminum duties.
“We continue to seek clarification,” said Japanese Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko. “I don’t think exports of steel and aluminum from Japan, which is a US ally, damages US national security in any way, and we would like to explain that to the US.”
India also raised concerns about the use of the national security interests provisions.
“We have only 2 percent of our exports to US so no immediate dent, but validity of Section 232 is stretched to be used as tariff barrier,” India’s Steel Secretary Aruna Sharma said.
Trump believes the tariffs will safeguard American jobs but many economists say the impact of price increases for consumers of steel and aluminum, such as the auto and oil industries, will be to destroy more jobs than they create.
Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. said the tariffs would substantially raise costs and therefore prices of cars and trucks sold in America.
News of the tariffs hit sentiment on Wall Street due to the potential impact of higher costs on consumers and the potential for damaging tit-for-tat retaliation by affected countries.
Asian steelmakers suffered with shares in South Korea’s POSCO and Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. down more than 3 percent.


Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

Updated 23 March 2019
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Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

  • Firms under pressure to explain how greener laws will hit business models

PARIS: The five largest publicly listed oil and gas majors have spent $1 billion since the 2015 Paris climate deal on public relations or lobbying that is “overwhelmingly in conflict” with the landmark accord’s goals, a watchdog said Friday.
Despite outwardly committing to support the Paris agreement and its aim to limit global temperature rises, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total spend a total of $200 million a year on efforts “to operate and expand fossil fuel operations,” according to InfluenceMap, a pro-transparency monitor.
Two of the companies — Shell and Chevron — said they rejected the watchdog’s findings.
“The fossil fuel sector has ramped up a quite strategic program of influencing the climate agenda,” InfluenceMap Executive Director Dylan Tanner told AFP.
“It’s a continuum of activity from their lobby trade groups attacking the details of regulations, controlling them all the way up, to controlling the way the media thinks about the oil majors and climate.”
The report comes as oil and gas giants are under increasing pressure from shareholders to come clean over how greener lawmaking will impact their business models.
As planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions hit their highest levels in human history in 2018, the five companies wracked up total profits of $55 billion.
At the same time, the International Panel on Climate Change — composed of the world’s leading climate scientists — issued a call for a radical drawdown in fossil fuel use in order to hit the 1.5C (2.7 Fahrenheit) cap laid out in the Paris accord.
InfluenceMap looked at accounts, lobbying registers and communications releases since 2015, and alleged a large gap between the climate commitments companies make and the action they take.

 

It said all five engaged in lobbying and “narrative capture” through direct contact with lawmakers and officials, spending millions on climate branding, and by employing trade associations to represent the sector’s interests in policy discussions.
“The research reveals a trend of carefully devised campaigns of positive messaging combined with negative policy lobbying on climate change,” it said.
It added that of the more than $110 billion the five had earmarked for capital investment in 2019, just $3.6bn was given over to low-carbon schemes.
The report came one day after the European Parliament was urged to strip ExxonMobil lobbyists of their access, after the US giant failed to attend a hearing where expert witnesses said the oil giant has knowingly misled the public over climate change.
“How can we accept that companies spending hundreds of millions on lobbying against the EU’s goal of reaching the Paris agreement are still granted privileged access to decision makers?” said Pascoe Sabido, Corporate Europe Observatory’s climate policy researcher, who was not involved in the InfluenceMap report.
The report said Exxon alone spent $56 million a year on “climate branding” and $41 million annually on lobbying efforts.
In 2017 the company’s shareholders voted to push it to disclose what tougher emissions policies in the wake of Paris would mean for its portfolio.
With the exception of France’s Total, each oil major had largely focused climate lobbying expenditure in the US, the report said.
Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.
AFP contacted all five oil and gas companies mentioned in the report for comment.
“We disagree with the assertion that Chevron has engaged in ‘climate-related branding and lobbying’ that is ‘overwhelmingly in conflict’ with the Paris Agreement,” said a Chevron spokesman.
“We are taking action to address potential climate change risks to our business and investing in technology and low carbon business opportunities that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
A spokeswoman for Shell — which the report said spends $49 million annually on climate lobbying — said it “firmly rejected” the findings.
“We are very clear about our support for the Paris Agreement, and the steps that we are taking to help meet society’s needs for more and cleaner energy,” they told AFP.
BP, ExxonMobil and Total did not provide comment to AFP.

FACTOID

$ 28m

Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.