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China urges reversal of steep new US tariffs

By ZHONG NAN and LIU ZHIHUA | China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-10 07:11

China urged the United States on Friday to revoke its decision to impose immediate, steep tariffs on imports of foreign steel and aluminum products, which the Ministry of Commerce said would seriously disturb global trade.

China's move came after US President Donald Trump signed two proclamations on Thursday to levy a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum while offering potential exemptions for Canada and Mexico. Trump said the penalties may "go up or down depending on the country, and I'll have a right to drop out countries or add countries".

Wang Hejun, head of the trade remedy and investigation bureau of the Ministry of Commerce, said the US measures are in essence trade protectionism in the guise of national security. Most US steel and aluminum imports are for civil use and by no means impair US national security.

Wang said the US abuse of the "national security" provision is a wanton sabotage of the multilateral trading system represented by the World Trade Organization, and is set to hurt the normal international trading order.

"China firmly opposes that," he said in a statement. "China has lodged solemn complaints with the US side through multiple channels, and China will assess its losses caused by the US measures, as well as take strong actions to ensure its legitimate interests."

The US first announced the tariffs on March 1 after a US Commerce Department investigation under Section 232 of US Trade Expansion Act of 1962 found the imports threatening to US national security.

The China Iron and Steel Association called on the Chinese government on Friday to retaliate against the US by targeting "stainless steel products, galvanized sheet, seamless pipe, coal, agriculture products and electronic products" imported from the US, it said in a statement posted on its website.

Xu Xiangchun, chief analyst for Mysteel.com, an iron and steel industry consultancy website, said the US move would have a limited direct impact on China's steel industry because China has been exporting a fairly small amount of steel to the US in recent years. Chinese steel products are mostly used in the domestic market, rather than for exports, Xu said.

China shipped a total of 75.43 million metric tons of steel to global markets in 2017, and the exports to the US accounted for only 1.18 million metric tons, while overall steel exports represented less than 10 percent of China's steel production, according to the National Development and Reform Commission and the General Administration of Customs.

Chen Weihua contributed to this story.

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