USA allies line up for tariff exemptions

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said China has no need or intention to replace the United States' worldwide role, and he warned that if the U.S. wages a trade war, it will "backfire".

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada is prepared to take responsive measures to defend its trade interests.

Two leading industry bodies representing producers in the world's top steel and aluminium market said they strongly oppose duties imposed by Trump to counter cheap imports, especially from China.

Trump defended the new tariffs as aiming to protect the steel and aluminium industry which are vital for national security.

"Choosing a trade war is surely the wrong prescription", Wang said. "In a globalized world it is particularly unhelpful as it will harm the initiator as well as the target country", China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

The dispute has also fuelled concern that soybeans, the United States' most valuable export to the world's No. 2 economy, might be caught up in tit-for-tat trade actions. Officials in China and European nations, whose industries would be hurt by the U.S. move, are warning this may not be the case. It fell during February this year compared to January in 2017.

Chinese officials, who have been studying curbs on US products such as soybeans according to past reports, were otherwise largely quiet on the tariff question Wednesday.

On Wednesday, at the WTO, China led a group of 18 members urging Trump to scrap the planned tariffs, with its representative saying the levies would pose a systemic threat to the rules-based global trading system.

"Our relationship with China has been a very good one, and we look forward to seeing what ideas they come back with".

Boosted by a global trade boom, China's exports past year grew the fastest since 2013 and served as one of the key drivers behind the economy's forecast-beating 6.9% expansion.

Trump has complained about low-priced Chinese exports of steel and aluminum, but the latest move was likely to hit Japan and South Korea harder. Its success highlights the isolation of the US under Trump's protectionist rhetoric on trade and his "America first" philosophy.

Trump announced this morning that he will be holding a meeting at 3:30 pm Thursday afternoon, during which he is expected to give clues on, if not officially roll out, his action on the steel and aluminum tariffs.

Yesterday's trade data may shed light on the potential impact of escalating trade tensions between the USA and China.

"The Chinese dragon and Indian elephant must not fight each other but dance with each other", he had said, adding that "if China and India are united, one plus one is not equal to two but eleven".

Last year, Wang skirted to take a question on ties with India amid growing discord over a host issues including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China blocking efforts at the United Nations to list Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist as well as Indias entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

When Beijing launched a probe last month into imports of US sorghum, a grain used in animal feed and liquor, it was viewed as a warning shot that Beijing was ready to target farm states that voted for Trump.

USA imports from China of steel and aluminum make up a small proportion of its total imports from the world's second largest economy.

"There is no case for imposing tariffs on Australian steel", Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.

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