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.


EU to respond to any US auto tariff move: report

Updated 23 June 2018
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EU to respond to any US auto tariff move: report

  • Trump threatened to impose 20 percent tariff
  • Shares in carmakers slip on trade war fears

PARIS: The European Union will respond to any US move to raise tariffs on cars made in the bloc, a senior European Commission official said, the latest comments in an escalating trade row.
US President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to impose a 20 percent tariff on all imports of EU-assembled cars, a month after his administration launched an investigation into whether auto imports posed a national security threat.
“If they decide to raise their import tariffs, we’ll have no choice, again, but to react,” EU Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen told French newspaper Le Monde.
“We don’t want to fight (over trade) in public via Twitter. We should end the escalation,” he said in the comments published on Saturday.
The European Autos Stocks Index fell on Friday after Trump’s tariff threat. Shares US carmakers Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. also dropped.
“If these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20% Tariff on all of their cars coming into the US Build them here!” Trump tweeted.
The US Commerce Department has a deadline of February 2019 to investigate whether imports of automobiles and auto parts pose a risk to US national security.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday the department aimed to wrap up the probe by late July or August. The Commerce Department plans to hold two days of public comments in July on its investigation of auto imports.
Trump has repeatedly singled out German auto imports to the United States for criticism.
Trump told carmakers at a meeting in the White House on May 11 that he was planning to impose tariffs of 20 or 25 percent on some imported vehicles and sharply criticized Germany’s automotive trade surplus with the United States.
The United States currently imposes a 2.5 percent tariff on imported passenger cars from the EU and a 25 percent tariff on imported pickup trucks. The EU imposes a 10 percent tariff on imported US cars.
The tariff proposal has drawn sharp condemnation from Republican lawmakers and business groups. A group representing major US and foreign automakers has said it is “confident that vehicle imports do not pose a national security risk.”
The US Chamber of Commerce said US auto production had doubled over the past decade, and said tariffs “would deal a staggering blow to the very industry it purports to protect and would threaten to ignite a global trade war.”
German automakers Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG build vehicles at plants in the United States. BMW is one of South Carolina’s largest employers, with more than 9,000 workers in the state.
The United States in 2017 accounted for about 15 percent of worldwide Mercedes-Benz and BMW brand sales. It accounts for 5 percent of Volkswagen’s VW brand sales and 12 percent of its Audi brand sales.