Mon, Mar 05, 2018 - Page 16 News List

US tariffs will hurt free trade: ministry

RESERVED RESPONSE:The ministry said it would wait to see how the aluminum and steel tariffs will be enforced, while there has been a flurry of threats from other nations

Staff writer, with CNA and AFP

The US’ plan to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum would undermine free trade in the global market, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Friday last week.

The comments came after US President Donald Trump on Thursday said that his administration would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports as early as next week.

The US plans to order tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum, but it remains unclear whether the high duties are to be applied to imports from all countries.

The ministry said it would wait to see how the US implements the tariffs before assessing their effects on Taiwanese exporters, but stressed that such measures reflect the trade protectionism that Trump has advocated and would no doubt negatively affect global trade.

Trump’s announcement sparked a flurry of counter threats from other nations, but its main trade rival, China, had avoided any warnings of potential retaliation until now.

“China doesn’t want a trade war with the United States,” Chinese National People’s Congress spokesman Zhang Yesui (張業遂), told a news conference yesterday. “But if the US takes actions that hurt Chinese interests, China will not sit idly by and will take necessary measures.”

Some US allies, such as Canada and Australia, had hoped to be spared the tariffs.

A major South Korean business lobby, the Federation of Korean Industries, yesterday said it sent letters to US Congress members and officials seeking an exemption.

A US official on Friday said no countries would be exempt, but possible exemptions would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Australia warned that a trade conflict could put the brakes on global economic growth.

“That’s what concerns me. If we continue to see an escalation of rhetoric and, ultimately, action around tariffs applying for imports and exports across multiple economies ... this will lead to a slow-down in growth,” Australian Minister of Trade Steve Ciobo told Sky News Australia yesterday.

In the financial markets last week, many investors were concerned by the possibility of a global trade war if Washington follows through on its plan as scheduled.

The TAIEX closed down 0.81 percent on Friday, with the steel sector down 1.63 percent. Among the falling steel stocks in Taiwan, China Steel Corp (中鋼), the largest steel maker in the nation, fell 1.84 percent, China Steel Structure Corp (中鋼結構), a subsidiary of China Steel, shed 2.19 percent, and Tung Ho Steel Enterprise Corp (東和鋼鐵) lost 1.38 percent.

Elsewhere in Asia, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp shed 3.8 percent on Friday. South Korea’s Pohang Iron and Steel Co (POSCO) lost 3.6 percent and Hyundai Steel Co fell 3 percent, while in China, Baosteel Group Corp (寶鋼) dropped 3.9 percent.

To date, the US has imposed anti-dumping tariffs on 13 steel products sold by Taiwanese firms, including carbon and alloy steel plates and steel concrete reinforcing bars, the ministry said on Friday.

However, it is unclear if the new tariffs would be added to the existing tariffs, it added.

Taiwan Research Institute (台灣綜合研究院) president Wu Tsai-yi (吳再益) said that if Taiwan is affected by the new tariffs, Taiwanese companies should find alternative markets as soon as possible.

According to US customs data, Taiwan’s steel product exports to the US last year totaled US$3.62 billion, accounting for 5.61 percent of total US imports, while Taiwan’s aluminum product exports to the US totaled US$57.12 million, or 0.33 percent of overall US imports.

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