US allies seek exemptions from Trump’s tariffs order


From Japan and South Korea to Australia and Europe, officials lined up on Friday to seek exemptions from President Donald Trump's tariffs on US steel and aluminum imports.

Tokyo and Brussels rejected any suggestion that their exports to the US threatened its national security - Trump's justification for imposing the tariffs despite warnings at home and abroad that they could provoke a global trade war.

Trump signed an order for the 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent for aluminum at the White House on Thursday to counter cheap imports.

However, he said "real friends" of the US could win waivers from the measures, which will soon come into force. In the event he exempted Canada and Mexico, fellow members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which he is trying to renegotiate.

Brazil, which after Canada is the biggest steel supplier to the US market, said it wanted to join the list.

"We will work to exclude Brazil from this measure," Brazilian acting Trade Minister Marcos Jorge said after meeting US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Argentina made a similar case.

Japan, the US' top economic and military ally in Asia, was next in line. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Japan's steel and aluminum shipments posed no threat to US national security.

With Japan a major trade partner and international investor, Suga said that, on the contrary, they contributed greatly to employment and industry in the US. Japan's steel industry body also expressed concern.

The EU, the world's biggest trade bloc, chimed in. "Europe is certainly not a threat to American internal security so we expect to be excluded," European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom said in Brussels.

Malmstrom told reporters the EU was ready to complain to the World Trade Organization, and retaliate within 90 days. She will meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko in Brussels on Saturday when she will ask whether the EU is to be included in the tariffs.

Other officials at the EU, by far the biggest trading partner of the US by value, have warned it could take counter-measures including European tariffs on US oranges, tobacco and bourbon.


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