China vows to protect itself if US imposes trade curbs

It calls US report backing sanctions on steel, aluminium imports "baseless"; urges restraint

BEIJING • China's Commerce Ministry said yesterday that the country will take necessary steps to protect itself if a final United States decision on imposing steep curbs on steel and aluminium imports from China and other countries affects China's interests.

The ministry added that the US Commerce Department report was "baseless" and did not accord with the facts.

The US Commerce Department has recommended that US President Donald Trump impose steep curbs on steel and aluminium imports from China and other countries, ranging from global and country-specific tariffs to broad import quotas, according to proposals released on Friday.

The long-awaited unveiling of the department's "Section 232" national-security reviews of the two industries contained global tariff options of at least 24 per cent on all steel products from all countries, and at least 7.7 per cent on all aluminium products from all countries.

Mr Trump authorised the probes under a 1962 trade law that has not been invoked since 2001.

He has until April 11 to announce his decision on steel import curbs and April 20 to decide on aluminium restrictions.

China's Commerce Ministry urged the US to exercise restraint in using trade protection tools, respect the rules of multilateral trade and make a positive contribution to the international economic and trading order.

"If the final US decision affects China's interests, China must take necessary measures to protect its own reasonable interests," the ministry added, without giving details.

US steel stocks soared on the news last Friday.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he would not be surprised if countries challenged the measures at the World Trade Organisation.

Alternatively, the US Commerce Department recommended a tariff of at least 53 per cent on all steel imports from 12 countries - Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

Other countries would be subject to a quota limiting their tariff-free access equal to their steel exports to the US last year.

The country-specific aluminium option would impose a 23.6 per cent tariff on all products from China, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam.

All others would be subject to quotas equal to their exports to the US last year.

A third option called for Mr Trump to impose global quotas based on 63 per cent of each country's steel exports and on 87 per cent of their aluminium exports to the US last year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'China vows to protect itself if US imposes trade curbs'. Print Edition | Subscribe