Japan trade minister calls for calm heads over USA tariffs

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The EU's trade commissioner says there is "no immediate clarity" from the USA on how the bloc can gain exemption from new tariffs on imported steel and aluminium imposed by President Trump.

Those threats have been overblown, according to Dani Rodrik, professor of global political economy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and one of the world's leading experts on trade.

Britain's International Trade Secretary Liam Fox described Mr. Trump's method for dealing with the problems facing the global steel industry by imposing the 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminium as "absurd".

South Korea and Australia also said they would seek exceptions.

Katainen said Brussels wanted "clarity" on how the tariffs will be implemented and was ready to enforce retaliatory measures to protect European interests if needed.

"As a close security and trade partner of the USA, the European Union must be excluded from the announced measures", Malmstroem said on Twitter after the meeting.

Trump imposed the tariffs despite pleas from friends and allies who warned the new measure could ignite a trade war. It intends to hit a range of U.S. goods with punitive tariffs in retaliation should the bloc face the USA import taxes.

Japan, the United States' top economic and military ally in Asia, was next in line.

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Along with a huge range of steel products, the EU's hit list of flagship American products lined up for counter measures includes peanut butter, bourbon whiskey and denim jeans.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that no one will win a "race to the bottom" and said the tariffs risked "hurting everyone". Shares in European steel makers fell, although Germany's two biggest producers, Thyssenkrupp and Salzgitter, have insisted the impact on them will be limited. "China would have to make a justified and necessary response", he added.

"This is not a trade negotiation", Katainen said.

Last year, China imported 3.2 million tonnes of United States coal, worth about $420 million and almost five times the amount it took in 2016.

The dispute has fuelled concerns that soybeans, the United States' most valuable export to China, might be caught up in the row after Beijing launched an inquiry into imports of U.S. sorghum, a grain used in animal feed and liquor.

Brazil is the United States' No. 2 steel supplier. "The outcome will only be harmful", he told reporters on the sidelines of an annual meeting of China's parliament.

EUROFER chief Axel Eggert said "the national security justification the president has used - and the linking of these tariffs to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation funding - is an absurdity".