China, Japan, South Korea bristle over US steel, aluminum tariffs

TOKYO March 9 (Reuters) - Major Asian nations reacted sharply to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports on Friday, warning of damage to close relations amid industry calls for retaliation.

Japan said the move would have a "big impact" on the countries' close bilateral ties, while China said it was "resolutely opposed" to the decision and South Korea said it may file a complaint to the World Trade Organization.

Trump on Thursday pressed ahead with the imposition of 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent for aluminum on Thursday, though he announced exemptions for Canada and Mexico, and said exceptions could also be made for other allies.

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Impact of Trump's proposed steel and aluminum tariffs
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Impact of Trump's proposed steel and aluminum tariffs
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 1: A trader is comforted by a coworker as they work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 1, 2018 in New York City. Major stock indexes plunged Thursday afternoon following President Trump's announcement that he was imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Investor concern about the news rattled the Dow Jones industrial average, which closed down more than 400 points. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 02: Wine in aluminum cans is displayed on a shelf at Ales Unlimited on March 2, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Beverage companies that use aluminum for canned drinks are concerned that tariffs proposed by US President Donald Trump could result in higher prices for consumers and job cuts across the industry. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Members of trade unions hold a protest against US President Donal Trump's import surcharge on Brazilian steel and in defense of their employment, outside the US Consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 5, 2018. Since announcing last week plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium, Trump has shrugged off threats from many nations, including China, Canada, Brazil and Mexico among others. / AFP PHOTO / Miguel SCHINCARIOL (Photo credit should read MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 02: Beer in aluminum cans is displayed on a shelf at Ales Unlimited on March 2, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Beverage companies that use aluminum for canned drinks are concerned that tariffs proposed by US President Donald Trump could result in higher prices for consumers and job cuts across the industry. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and press secretary Sarah Sanders listen as U.S. President Donald Trump announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 1: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 1, 2018 in New York City. Major stock indexes plunged Thursday afternoon following President Trump's announcement that he was imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Investor concern about the news rattled the Dow Jones industrial average, which closed down more than 400 points. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
Members of trade unions hold a protest against US President Donal Trump's import surcharge on Brazilian steel and in defense of their employment, outside the US Consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 5, 2018. Since announcing last week plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium, Trump has shrugged off threats from many nations, including China, Canada, Brazil and Mexico among others. / AFP PHOTO / Miguel SCHINCARIOL (Photo credit should read MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/AFP/Getty Images)
Chairman, CEO and president of Nucor John Ferriola and U.S. Steel CEO Dave Burritt flank U.S. President Donald Trump as he announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 1: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 1, 2018 in New York City. Major stock indexes plunged Thursday afternoon following President Trump's announcement that he was imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Investor concern about the news rattled the Dow Jones industrial average, which closed down more than 400 points. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 02: Wine in aluminum cans is displayed on a shelf at Ales Unlimited on March 2, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Beverage companies that use aluminum for canned drinks are concerned that tariffs proposed by US President Donald Trump could result in higher prices for consumers and job cuts across the industry. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 1: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 1, 2018 in New York City. Major stock indexes plunged Thursday afternoon following President Trump's announcement that he was imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Investor concern about the news rattled the Dow Jones industrial average, which closed down more than 400 points. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
Pacific Coast Producers president and CEO Dan Vincent stands in his cooperative's distribution center in Lodi, California, U.S., April 27, 2018. Picture taken April 27, 2018. To match Insight USA-TRUMP/TARIFFS-CANS REUTERS/Noah Berger
An employee uses a crane as he prepares to move a steel pipe at the SAW Pipe Mills, operated by Liberty Commodities Ltd., in Hartlepool, U.K., on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Steel and aluminum�tariffs�imposed by the U.S. in March may already be filtering through to prices charged by American producers of the metals. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An employee passes a stack of steel pipes at the SAW Pipe Mills, operated by Liberty Commodities Ltd., in Hartlepool, U.K., on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Steel and aluminum�tariffs�imposed by the U.S. in March may already be filtering through to prices charged by American producers of the metals. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A steel pipe enters a cleaning machine at the SAW Pipe Mills, operated by Liberty Commodities Ltd., in Hartlepool, U.K., on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Steel and aluminum�tariffs�imposed by the U.S. in March may already be filtering through to prices charged by American producers of the metals. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Identification stencils hang above steel pipes at the SAW Pipe Mills, operated by Liberty Commodities Ltd., in Hartlepool, U.K., on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Steel and aluminum�tariffs�imposed by the U.S. in March may already be filtering through to prices charged by American producers of the metals. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sheet steel sits stacked in the store room at the SAW Pipe Mills, operated by Liberty Commodities Ltd., in Hartlepool, U.K., on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Steel and aluminum�tariffs�imposed by the U.S. in March may already be filtering through to prices charged by American producers of the metals. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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China, which produces half the world's steel, will assess any damage caused by the U.S. move and "firmly defend its legitimate rights and interests," the country's Ministry of Commerce said.

The tariffs would "seriously impact the normal order of international trade," China's commerce ministry said.

Trade tensions between China and United States have risen since Trump took office. China accounts for only a small fraction of U.S. steel imports, but its massive industrial expansion has helped create a global glut of steel that has driven down prices.

China's steel and metals associations urged the government to retaliate against the United States, citing imports ranging from stainless steel to coal, agricultural products and electronics.

"The cost of a trade war will be tremendous and it will make everyone unhappy," Junichi Makino, chief economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo, said in a report on Friday.

Trump's declaration coincided with the signing by 11 countries of a new Trans-Pacific trade pact that the United States withdrew from last year.

South Korea and Australia both said they would seek exceptions.

The European Union, Brazil and Argentina said overnight they should not be targeted or would seek exemptions.

Shares in China's steel and aluminum makers fell on Friday morning. Baoshan Iron & Steel was down around 3 percent, while Hesteel and Beijing Shougang were down less than 1 percent.

In South Korea, shares in Posco were down more than 2 percent, while in Tokyo Japan's biggest steelmaker Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal was up slightly.

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Wang Jing in SHANGHAI, Yuka Obayashi, Kaori Kaneko and Ami Miyazaki in TOKYO, Ju-Min Park in SEOUL; writing by Aaron Sheldrick; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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