Australia to Secure Exemption from US Tariffs

Peter Castro
March 12, 2018

Japan's trade minister sought an exemption from U.S. import tariffs on steel and aluminium on Saturday (March 10) and called for "calm-headed behaviour" in a dispute that threatens to spiral into a trade war.

The European Union and Japan, the United States' top economic and military ally in Asia, also reiterated that their exports were not a threat to USA national security, rejecting Trump's justification for imposing the tariffs.

Trump this week exempted Canada and Mexico from the duties - 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum - and said US allies would have 15 days to negotiate possible exemptions.

Turnbull added Australia had "the closest possible military and security alliance with the United States and it gets closer all of the time".

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (C) European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko take part in a meeting to discuss steel overcapacity, in Brussels, Belgium March 10, 2018.

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Malmstrom told reporters the European Union was ready to complain to the World Trade Organization, and retaliate within 90 days.

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"No we haven't entered a trade war but we are not that far off the brink of a trade war".

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.

The 28-nation European Union, which negotiates trade policy as a bloc, has warned it will challenge the tariffs at the World Trade Organization. He also added Australia to the list of likely carve-outs. "We will have to protect our industry with rebalancing measures, safeguards". In the event he exempted Canada and Mexico, fellow members of the North American Free Trade Agreement which he is trying to renegotiate.

Earlier this week Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, announced his resignation from the White House, with all signs that his much-speculated departure came over a rift about the tariffs.

"If there is a violation, then we will seek consultations". Tariffs would "seriously impact the normal order of worldwide trade", the Commerce Ministry said. "So we are stumbling into a war, and this of course would be a great danger to the global economy", said German MP Norbert Röttgen. "Now we have a different approach".

US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shake hands.

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