Trump tariffs: Asia reacts to “major change in international trade order”

Trump tariffs: Asia reacts to “major change in international trade order”


Luke Foddy, Communications Manager

President Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminium represent “a major change in the international trade order,” a former Prime Minister of Singapore has said.

In a Facebook post, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said: “This jostling reflects Trump’s bilateral deal-making at work. It portends a major change in the international trade order. It is bad for the world, and especially for countries like Singapore which depend on trade and an open economic environment.”

He added, “these are worrying times for Singapore,” The Straits Times reports.

Consternation at President Trump’s new measures, ostensibly made due to security reasons, has been widespread in Asia.

South Korea’s Finance Minister, Kim Dong-yeon, said his government was planning an “all-out effort” in response, Reuters reports. As the third-largest exporter of steel to the US, the tariffs could hit South Korea hard. A suggested waiver requested by the US’s strategic ally in the Korean peninsula has yet to materialise.

“We will make clear what our stance is,” the Minister said on Monday. “We will deploy all possible means to respond to U.S. steel tariffs measures and make an all-out effort.”

China, however, has remained measured in its response, perhaps in part because the tariffs will have a limited impact on its steel industry, which accounts for just 2 per cent of US steel imports.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, has said the UK will rely on the European Union to make the case for an exemption from the tariffs, according to Bloomberg.

“Our current membership of the European Union means that the European Commission will be coordinating the European response,” Dr Fox said.

The EU has drawn up plans for new duties to impose on the US, ahead of a formal trade dispute, according to the The Economist, which suggests the tariffs pose a ‘threat to world trade’ and the rules-based system.