China urges US restraint over steel and aluminium tariffs

China urges US restraint over steel and aluminium tariffs


Anthea Ow, Content Producer

New steel and aluminium tariffs announced by US President Donald Trump this week have attracted condemnation from key exporters, and sparked fears of a sharp stock market sell-off in the US and Asia.

The duties of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium, announced on Thursday, will be implemented broadly without targeting specific countries. According to President Trump, they would be in place by next week, although White House officials later said that details need to be finalised.

The controversial move has sparked a backlash, with Reuters citing Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo as saying retaliatory measures put in place by major economies are “in no-one’s interest.”  

However, the response from China – the world’s dominant steel producer – has so far been measured. While expressing “grave concern” over the move, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying chose to claim the moral high ground as a defender of the global trading system.

“China urges the US to exercise self-restraint, not to implement trade protection tools, confront multilateral trading rules and make a contribution to global trade regulations,” The Guardian quotes her as saying. “We should cooperate and try to find ways to overcome this difficulty, rather than benefit oneself at the other’s expense and implement unilateral trade limitation.”

Such a tone may be due to the limited impact the new tariffs are expected to have on China directly, which accounts for only 2 per cent of US steel imports. While it has not mentioned retaliatory measures, China could respond by imposing measures of its own on major US agricultural exports.

That would do little to placate President Trump, though, whose motivations for the tariffs seem to be influenced by a US Commerce and Defense Departments report that suggested steel and aluminium imports represented a security risk.

“What’s been allowed to go on for decades is disgraceful. It’s disgraceful. When it comes to a time where our country can’t make aluminum and steel … you almost don’t have much of a country,” Trump is reported to have said, according to CNN.