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More countries want to be exempt from Trump’s tariffs

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in Stockholm. Photo by GFMD/Mikael Sjöberg. Taken from Malmstrom’s Facebook page.

As U.S. President Donald Trump signed proclamations Thursday imposing 25 per cent tariffs on steel imports and 10 per cent for aluminium for almost every country but Mexico and Canada, other nations have expressed their desire to join the lucky duo.

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that the EU was a close ally of the United States and should also be exempt from metals tariffs.

Malmstrom will meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Saturday to discuss steel overcapacity and possible exonerations. “The root cause of problems in these two sectors is global overcapacity caused by non-market based production. This can only be addressed at the source and by working with the key countries involved. This go-it-alone action by the US will not help,” she had previously said. According to Reuters, Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko will also join the meeting in Brussels.

Seko Foreign Affairs counterpart, Taro Kono, issued a statement saying that the North American giant’s decision will likely have a “big impact” on the global economy and on the economic ties between Tokyo and Washington. Kono added that his office would respond appropriately upon examining any impact on Japanese companies and World Trade Organization rules.

On the other hand, Brazil’s Acting Trade Minister, Marcos Jorge, said that his office is setting up a plan “to exclude Brazil from this measure.” According to Jorge, if the United States declines his proposal, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of seeking an appeal before the WTO.

Brazil is the United States’ No. 2 steel supplier. The country’s steel industry association has said the tariffs are an “extreme” measure.

Similarly, the China Iron and Steel Association said that it “strongly opposed” the new levies and asked the Xi Jinping government to take measures in response. According to the group, Trump’s decision is “undermining the WTO rules and disrupting the international trade order.”

Even though China accounts for only a small fraction of U.S. steel imports, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the U.S. president is being unwise in launching a trade war. “The outcome will only be harmful,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an annual meeting of China’s parliament. “China would have to make a justified and necessary response,” he added.

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry also issued a press release saying that it will seek to join Mexico and Canada in getting an exemption from U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. “Trump affirmed that others could receive this privilege,” the brief reads. “Our government will discuss with U.S. authorities the possibility exempting Argentinian exports of both products from the tariffs.”

Argentina accounts for just 0.6 per cent of U.S. steel imports and 2.3 percent of its aluminum imports.

South Korea and Australia also said they would seek exceptions.