Japan urges US to shun steel tariffs but makes no threats

Japan Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko said: ‘High quality steel and aluminum exports from ally Japan are not at all affecting US national security but rather are contributing to US employment and the economy.’ (AP Photo)
Updated 06 March 2018
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Japan urges US to shun steel tariffs but makes no threats

TOKYO: Japan on Tuesday stuck to its a low-key approach to threatened US tariffs on steel and aluminum, reflecting a desire to keep trade fights from hurting security ties as well as lessons learned about how to deal with President Donald Trump.
The spectre of a trade war coincides with signs of a thaw in a crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat, prompting concerns in Tokyo that talks between Pyongyang and Washington could take place despite Japan’s stance that the focus should be on putting increased pressure on Pyongyang.
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko on Tuesday repeated that Japanese steel and aluminum exports are not affecting America’s national security but are helping America’s economy. He declined comment on possible retaliation.
“High quality steel and aluminum exports from (US) ally Japan are not at all affecting US national security but rather are contributing to US employment and the economy,” Seko told a news conference.
US President Donald Trump last week proposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. That prompted Canada, Mexico and the European Union to threaten counter-steps if the plan, based on Section 232 of a 1962 US law that allows such tariffs based on “national security,” went ahead.
Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, said countries will not be excluded from the tariffs but there will be a mechanism for some corporate exemptions, raising hopes some Japanese products will be exempted.
Any steps Japan does take in response to US tariffs would be consistent with rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said a Japanese government source, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to media.
“We wouldn’t stand idly by, but ... if we did the same thing as the United States by taking steps that are against WTO rules, that would be like a children’s spat.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has forged close ties with Trump, is wary of confrontation over trade since keeping Tokyo and Washington on the same page on North Korea is a top priority, experts said.
“The security issue looms much larger now. I don’t think they want to set off Trump,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japan campus. “You don’t get what you want by getting in his face, but by making it seem he’s getting a better deal,” he added.
Also on Tuesday, Abe spoke by phone about the tariffs and other matters with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Japan’s foreign ministry said.
All three countries belong to an 11-member Asia-Pacific trade pact to be signed on Chile on March 8. Japan took the lead in forging the deal after Trump pulled the United States out of a 12-nation predecessor, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Seko is arranging a visit to China this month and the proposed US tariffs would come up then, Jiji news agency said. A ministry official was not immediately available to comment on the report.


Oil firms as China’s slowdown not as steep as some expected

Updated 15 min 46 sec ago
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Oil firms as China’s slowdown not as steep as some expected

  • In an expected cooling, China’s economy grew by 6.6 percent in 2018, its slowest expansion in 28 years
  • ‘Brent can remain above $60 per barrel on OPEC+ compliance, expiry of Iran waivers and slower US output growth’

SINGAPORE: Oil prices firmed on Monday after data showed China’s economic slowdown was not as big as some analysts had expected, with supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries also offering support.
International Brent crude oil futures were at $62.83 per barrel at 0259, up 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $53.92 a barrel, up 12 cents, or 0.2 percent.
Both oil price benchmarks had dipped into the red earlier in the session on fears that China’s 2018 economic growth figures would be weaker.
In an expected cooling, China’s economy grew by 6.6 percent in 2018, its slowest expansion in 28 years and down from a revised 6.8 percent in 2017, official data showed on Monday. China’s September-December 2018 growth was at 6.4 percent, down from 6.5 percent in the previous quarter.
Although the slowdown was in line with expectations and not as sharp as some analysts had expected, the cooling of the world’s number two economy casts a shadow over global growth.
“The global outlook remains murky, despite emerging positives from a dovish Fed (now boosting US mortgage applications), faster China easing (China credit growth stabilizing) and a more durable US-China truce,” US bank JP Morgan said in a note.
Despite this, analysts said supply cuts led by OPEC would likely support crude oil prices.
“Brent can remain above $60 per barrel on OPEC+ compliance, expiry of Iran waivers and slower US output growth,” JP Morgan said.
It recommended investors should “stay long” crude oil.
Researchers at Bernstein Energy said the supply cuts led by OPEC “will move the market back into supply deficit” for most of 2019 and that “this should allow oil prices to rise to $70 per barrel before year-end from current levels of $60 per barrel.”
In the US, energy firms cut 21 oil rigs in the week to Jan. 18, taking the total count down to 852, the lowest since May 2018, energy services firm Baker Hughes said in a weekly report on Friday.
It was biggest decline since February 2016, as drillers reacted to the 40 percent plunge in US crude prices late last year.
However, US crude oil production still rose by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018, to a record 11.9 million bpd.
With the rig count stalling, last year’s growth rate is unlikely to be repeated in 2019, although most analysts expect annual production to average well over 12 million bpd, making the US the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.