Japan and China reacted Thursday to US President Donald Trump steep trade tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium, warning about their dangers to international trade.
Japan said the moves “could have a grave impact on the economic relationship of Japan and the US”, the world’s third and top economies respectively.
The world’s second-biggest economy, China, was also vocal in its opposition, deriding the tariffs as “a serious attack on normal international trade order.”
Top trading partners the European Union and Brazil also launched broadsides against the tariffs, which are worth billions of dollars., drawing sharp protests from allies at home and abroad amid fears of a global trade war.
Signaling a sharp departure from a decades-long US-led drive for more open and less regulated trade, Trump declared that America had been “ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices.”
“It’s really an assault on our country,” he declared, announcing the tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminium, which are used in everything from cars to construction, roads to railways.
Trump said the tariffs — which will come into effect after 15 days — will not initially apply to Canada and Mexico, and that close partners on security and trade could negotiate exemptions.
“Many of the countries that treat us the worst on trade and on the military are our allies, as they call them,” he complained.
Leaning on a little-used and decades-old national security clause in US trade law, Trump said he was fulfilling a campaign promise.
“I’ve been talking about this a long time, a lot longer than my political career,” he said. “We’ve been treated very badly by our past administrations, by presidents that represented us that didn’t know what they were doing.”
The mercurial 45th president compared his action to those of predecessors George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley.
Canada, America’s neighbour to the north, was its single-largest source of steel last year, followed by Brazil, South Korea, Russia, Mexico, Japan and Germany.
Regarding alumina and aluminium, Canada was also by far the largest supplier followed by China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Trump had indicated he would be flexible toward “real friends,” and during the signing confirmed Canada and Mexico would be permanently exempted if the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is successful.
But both Mexico and Canada rejected Trump’s linkage of the levies to ongoing NAFTA talks.