WTO Members Criticize U.S. Tariffs on Imported Metals

U.S. President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs met a barrage of criticism at a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting on Friday, as the European Union, Japan, Australia, and others joined a debate started by China and Russia, Reuters reported.

The EU representative at WTO dismissed U.S. assertions that the steps were needed to protect national security, saying Washington was just trying to support its industry, a Geneva trade official said.

Rusal, Russia’s biggest aluminum producer, said on Friday it believed Russia should be exempted from tariffs on aluminum imports to the United States.

The U.S. is set to begin charging import duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum from March 23.

According to Finanz.ru, Rusal said it has been supplying the United States with the low carbon aluminum that American consumers increasingly demand.

“Our division – Rusal America – has been in the state of Delaware since 1999. We supply the American market with products with a low carbon footprint, which is in demand in this market, and at the same time is scarce. We believe that Russia should be exempted from duties in order to protect U.S. consumers from rising prices and that the U.S. metal processing industry remains competitive,” the company representative said.

Rusal, the world’s second-largest aluminum producer, previously reported that it sells slightly more than 10 percent of its volume in the US. According to the estimates, given in early March, since the U.S. capacity for production of primary aluminum is only 20 percent of the country’s demand, import duties will be paid by domestic consumers.

On Friday, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Viktor Evtukhov said Russia will challenge the stiff new U.S. tariffs before the World Trade Organization.

Evtukhov told Rossia-24 TV on March 23 that the new tariffs of 25 percent on U.S. steel imports will cause about $2 billion in losses for Russian steel exporters, while the 10 percent tariffs on U.S. aluminum imports will cause $1 billion in losses for Russian aluminum producers.

“Our steelworkers will suffer,” he said. “It will be necessary to challenge this measure in the WTO.”

On Friday it also became known that duties will temporarily not be introduced (until May 1) for products from Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, as well as from EU countries. Until that time, U.S. authorities will discuss “acceptable long-term alternative ways to eliminate the threat to national security.”

The White House emphasizes that the rest of the countries in respect of which customs duties began to operate can also discuss with the United States the question of excluding them from this list.