Australia may avoid Donald Trump's steel and aluminium tariffs

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In making the long-awaited announcement Thursday, Trump says the USA industry has been "ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices".

Minister Hiroshige Seko told a news conference his US counterpart Robert Lighthizer had only explained the schedule and procedure of the USA actions in talks in Brussels.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recommended that Trump consider instituting a tariff of at least 7.7 percent on all aluminum exports from all countries, setting a 23.6 percent tariff on all aluminum products from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam and making them subject to quotas, or imposing a quota on all aluminum imports from countries equal to a maxium of 87 percent of their 2017 exports to the U.S.

United States Steel Corp. was forced to idle furnaces and lay off hundreds of workers after cheap imports flooded into the country and pushed down prices.

The US would offer temporary tariff relief to Canada and Mexico for 30 days, the Washington Post reported citing senior US officials, breaks that could be extended depending on progress in the ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

China meanwhile warned Thursday it was ready to respond to USA tariffs if they materialise. Trump tweeted this week that the tariffs "will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed".

Trump has complained about low-priced Chinese exports of steel and aluminum, but the latest move was likely to hit Japan and South Korea harder. "It's really an assault on our country".

Lawmakers have largely remained in the dark about the White House's plans, but many senators said it's a long shot at best to stop Trump. The steel workers of America are considered to be ardent supporters of Trump and direct manufacturers of steel will benefit from the President's move.

"We will urge the global community to refrain from adopting measures that inhibit free trade", said the Korean minister, Paik Un-gyu, at an emergency meeting, according to a ministry statement.

It recognized the complex, integrated economies of all three trade partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the damage a 25% import tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum imports into the US would cause all three nations. "So we just want fairness".

Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel, said: "Slapping a 25% tax on steel from British companies is going to hit us hard".

Announcing the move Trump leaned on a little-used and decades-old national security clause in United States trade law but said Canada and Mexico would be excluded and other countries could negotiate exemptions. Electoral promise and trade deficit of the United States were triggers for Trump's move.

Since announcing new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports last week, the Trump administration has argued that it is protecting American industry from China, which in recent years flooded the global market with cheap metals. Canada and Mexico were given exemptions while the renegotiation of a more US-friendly NAFTA deal is underway.

House Speaker Paul Ryan released a statement Thursday saying he opposes the tariffs but is relieved that Trump exempted Canada and Mexico. South Korea's trade minister appealed to other governments to prevent the dispute from spiraling into a "trade war".

He said the Japanese steel industry will study the impact of the US decision on levies "very carefully" and continue "to advocate for the adoption of policies based on the principles of free trade".