Europe's Largest Aluminum Producer Is Dodging U.S. Tariffs

(Bloomberg) -- Norway, Europe’s largest producer of aluminum, is counting its blessings that only a minuscule amount of the metal it ships abroad is sold to the U.S.

About 97 percent of Norway’s 31.9 billion kroner ($4 billion) in aluminum exports last year to European markets, while only 0.2 percent was sent to the U.S., Statistics Norway said in a new report on Tuesday.

Norway also benefited as the European Union has decided to keep the Nordic country out of any retaliatory measures. Norway is a member of the internal market through the European Economic Area agreement.

But the statistics agency also raised a warning finger. Exports would take a hit should the U.S. introduce increased tariffs on European cars. Norway is home to aluminum producer Norsk Hydro ASA. “Increased tariffs could lead to a spiral of retribution, with tariffs on more goods from several countries,” the agency said.

The chief executive officer of Norsk Hydro said that profitability hasn’t been hurt by the steeper tariffs. "We have the same margins in the U.S. now as before prices have gone up and that means that consumers and end-products in the U.S. are paying the bill," Svein Richard Brandtzaeg said in an interview on Tuesday.

Norway, which has a trade deficit with the U.S., voiced its dismay with the escalating trade tensions. “In addition to the climate this creates for international trade, it’s also from a Norwegian point of view completely incomprehensible and grossly unfair if it were to hit Norway," Trade Minister Torbjorn Roe Isaksen said in an interview.

Excluding oil and gas, aluminum accounted for almost 8 percent of Norway’s exports in 2017.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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