U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned tariffs on steel and aluminum risk retaliation from other economies and could cost jobs, Australia’s trade minister said on Friday, while China predicted harm to trade if other countries follow the example of the USA
Fears of an escalating trade war roiled Asian markets, hitting the share prices of steelmakers and manufacturers supplying U.S. markets particularly hard.
U.S. stock futures pointed to a steady start on Friday after a sharp fall following Trump’s Thursday announcement.
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 United States out of, has sought an exemption for its steel and aluminum exports to the United States, Ciobo added.
“All countries steel and aluminum industries are facing difficulties,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing in Beijing.
“China urges the United States to show restraint in using protective trade measures, respect multilateral trade rules, and make a positive contribution to international trade order.”
Steel has become a key focus for Trump, who pledged to restore the U.S. industry and punish what he sees as unfair trade practices, particularly by China.
“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 United States after Canada and Brazil, said it will keep talking to U.S. officials until Washington’s plans for tariffs are finalised.
“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.