Australia hopes to be exempted from US metal tariffs amid fears of trade war

Workers ride on an motor rickshaw through an aluminium ingots depot in Wuxi, China. Analysts said the greater risk for Australia was that countries such as China may begin imposing barriers.
Workers ride on an motor rickshaw through an aluminium ingots depot in Wuxi, China. Analysts said the greater risk for Australia was that countries such as China may begin imposing barriers.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY - In Australia, US President Donald Trump's proposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports have raised concerns of a "trade war" involving escalating global barriers that will lead to curbs on Australian resources exports.

Australia's Trade Minister, Mr Steven Ciobo, said he hoped that Australia would be exempt from the tariffs, which could affect about US$423 million (S$559 million) worth of exports to the United States. He said Canberra had lobbied to avoid being subject to the tariffs.

"The United States indicated that that they would apply an exemption to Australia," Mr Ciobo told The Australian on Friday (March 2).

"Of course I am concerned about a trade war. We know that a trade war would result in a global recession and millions of people becoming unemployed."

Mr Trump announced on Thursday (March 1) that he would impose tariffs of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminium to protect US producers.

Despite concerns that some commodities firms may be directly affected by US tariffs, analysts said the greater risk for Australia was that countries such as China - which are big importers of Australian minerals - may begin imposing barriers.

"The more important issue for Australia is the second and third order effects on global trade flows and economic growth from any tit-for-tat trade war," wrote US correspondent John Kehoe in The Australian Financial Review on Friday.

"As a medium-sized, export-dependent economy selling mining commodities, agriculture and services to China, Australia does not want a disruption to global trading patterns or escalating trade tariffs between the US and China."