EU's Malmstrom says tariffs not way to solve overcapacity in steel sector

US EU Japan trade chiefs to meet over steel tariffs

From Japan and South Korea to Australia and Europe, officials lined up on Friday to seek exemptions from President Donald TrumpĀ“s tariffs on USA steel and aluminium imports, while Chinese producers called on Beijing to retaliate in kind.

European Union officials said that while they shared US concerns about overcapacity in the steel sector, tariffs were not the answer, and stressed Europe's historic ties to the United States. "We have some friends and some enemies where we have been tremendously taken advantage of over the years on trade and on military", he said.

Striking a defiant tone, European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen called Trump's speech protectionist, saying it remained unclear how a potential exclusion process would work.

"We will have to protect our industry with rebalancing measures, safeguard", she added when asked if she would consider taking the dispute to the worldwide trade regulator. Th U.S. justified these tariffs by citing national security!

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem told reporters in Brussels that Trump's rationale appears to invoke the worldwide legal right to protect national security. She will meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko in Brussels on Saturday when she will ask whether the European Union is to be included in the tariffs.

She won support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Malmstrom said she still believed a solution could be found but added she was prepared to take action at the World Trade Organisation if the US extended the tariffs to European Union producers.

European industry associations called on Malmstrom to respond if the EU was subjected to the tariffs, saying they would hit the steel and aluminum sectors hard.

Trump has long railed against what he deems unfair trade practices by China and others, and last week declared that he would levy penalties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports. The tariffs would "seriously impact the normal order of global trade", the Ministry of Commerce said. Trump has championed coal exports as demand from power firms at home weakens.

The dispute has fuelled concerns that soybeans, the United States's most valuable export to China, might be caught up in the row after Beijing launched a probe into imports of US sorghum, a grain used in animal feed and liquor.

South Korea, the third-largest steel exporter to the United States, is also considering joining an action at the WTO.

EUROFER chief Axel Eggert said "the national security justification the president has used - and the linking of these tariffs to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation funding - is an absurdity".

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