SA in discussions on US global tariff on steel, aluminium imports

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South Africa’s trade and industry department (Dti) is engaging with the United States about President Donald Trump’s announcement of a global tariff of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium imports.

“The department of trade and industry is fully engaged with the matter and has undertaken discussions with the US in a number of forums. In addition, the dti is meeting with South African companies with export interests in the US to ascertain the possible impact of the proposed measures on these companies,” the dti said in a statement.

“The dti is also assessing the compatibility of the proposed measures with the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In addition, South Africa, through the dti, is a member of both the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] and G20 steel committees and will be represented at senior management level at the meetings of these multi-lateral institutions when these meet next week. The proposed US steel trade measures will be discussed at these meetings.”

Trump held a “listening session” with representatives of large steel and aluminium companies on Thursday to hear first-hand about the concerns of American companies relating to imports of steel and aluminium, the dti said.

During the question and answer session, Trump announced that he had decided to impose a global tariff on imports of steel and aluminium – applicable to all importers into the US market.

The White House, the office of the US trade representative (USTR), and commerce department have not released any official statement on the duties or how the duties will be implemented.

The dti said South African steel exports to the US amounted to US950 million in 2017 and accounted for 1.4 percent of the the US’s global imports, while South African aluminium exports to the US amounted to US375 million in 2017 and accounted for 1.6 percent of imports from all global suppliers.

“It is clear that South African exports do not impose a threat to US industry and jobs. The SA exports are in some cases used as inputs into further processes in the US manufacturing sector, thus contributing to US jobs and production. The dti will issue a further media brief as soon as further information can be provided,” it said.

On Friday, Trump took to social media Twitter, saying the US steel industry was in “bad shape” and the country had to “protect itself”.

“We must protect our country and our workers. Our steel industry is in bad shape. IF YOU DON’T HAVE STEEL, YOU DON’T HAVE A COUNTRY!” he tweeted.

“When a country Taxes our products coming in at, say, 50%, and we Tax the same product coming into our country at ZERO, not fair or smart. We will soon be starting RECIPROCAL TAXES so that we will charge the same thing as they charge us. $800 Billion Trade Deficit-have no choice!”