Trump's Steel Tariff Shakes Global Trade Order, EU Group Warns

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(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s plan to curb U.S. imports of steel on national-security grounds threatens the foundations of the World Trade Organization, warned a European industry group.

“This whole issue can blow up the WTO,” Axel Eggert, director general of the European Steel Association, said in an interview on Friday in Brussels. “This is not about national security. This is about propping up a U.S. industry that isn’t viable.”

The U.S. president’s pledge to impose a 25 percent tariff on foreign steel risks provoking tit-for-tat retaliation across the globe and a slew of complaints to the Geneva-based WTO, which has never ruled on a dispute involving trade restrictions justified on national-security grounds.

Three other such cases are working their way through the WTO’s dispute-settlement system. They involve Russia and Ukraine, which is battling Moscow-backed rebels in the eastern part of the country, and Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which has cut economic ties to the neighboring country after allegations it supports terrorist groups.

Eggert said steel prices in the U.S. that have averaged around $80 a metric ton more than those in the rest of the world show the inefficiency of the American industry. He urged Trump to rethink his tariff plan and work with the EU to curb steel overcapacity in China, the biggest producer of the metal.

“That is really the root problem,” Eggert said. “We need to address this together with the U.S.”

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