Asia Reacts to...

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The Asia Reacts to... series highlights how various Asian media are reacting to US politics, policy, and major events. Explore the collated sources below to gauge the complexities of the US-Asia relationship as seen from Asia.

Coordinator: Sarah Wang 

On March 8, 2018, President Donald Trump signed new tariffs into law  on steel and aluminum imports. The tariffs, which are set to take effect 15 days from their signing, instill penalties of 25% on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum. The tariffs have faced push back within the United States and countries around the world. Currently, Canada and Mexico have been exempted from the tariffs as negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) continue.

Click on a country to jump down to its specific reactions: Australia, China, India, IndonesiaJapan, Malaysia, South Korea, TaiwanVietnam

To view additional topics in the Asia Reacts to... series, scroll down or click here

*DISCLAIMER: Spelling in the quotations has been changed from British English to American English.*


“Turnbull government ministers are adamant the United States does not expect anything from Australia in return for exempting Aussie steel and aluminum from new tariffs. US President Donald Trump said in a tweet his administration was ‘working very quickly on a security agreement so we don't have to impose steel or aluminum (sic) tariffs on our ally, the great nation of Australia’. Questions have been raised over what such a security agreement might entail, especially in light of Mr. Trump telling the prime minister in February he would love Australia to join the US on new freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is emphatic there is no new security or military arrangement Australia is expected to meet. Mr. Trump's reference to a ‘security agreement’ was just using the specific language of the executive order he issued on the tariffs, she said. ‘There is no further security arrangement. There was no reciprocal arrangement as a result of the tariff exemption,’ she told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.”

“The Turnbull government has left open the prospect of supporting World Trade Organization action by other countries against Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs - despite an exemption for Australia - while also hosing down speculation it could challenge Beijing’s assertive behavior in the disputed South China Sea. A day after Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed Australia would not be hit with the punishing new trade barriers, Trade Minister Steven Ciobo indicated the government might still back other affected countries in support of the principle of free trade. The government meanwhile sharpened its denials that the reprieve involved any quid pro quo gesture from Australia, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insisting ‘there is no further security arrangement’ and indicating Australia had no plan to carry out more confrontational patrols in the South China Sea.”

“Labor welcomed the exemption for Australian exports but called on Mr Turnbull to toughen anti-dumping provisions in anticipation of a trade war. ‘The US decision to increase tariffs raises a real risk that other countries could potentially use Australia as a dumping ground for steel they would have sold to the US. If this happens, it puts Australian jobs at risk,’ Labor leader Bill Shorten said.”

“Regardless, import tariffs on steel and aluminum will have only a small impact on the Australian economy, as Australia isn’t a large exporter of steel or aluminum. What Australia does export to the United States is covered by a free trade agreement. […] There could be some concern if the United States extends tariffs to beef, other meat products, aircraft parts, pharmaceuticals and alcoholic beverages. These goods comprise the top five Australian exports to the United States and account for considerably larger trade volumes than steel and aluminum. Yet there is no reason to expect tariffs will suddenly be imposed on these major exports, given the provisions of the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement. This agreement comprehensively covers trade in goods and services, as well as investment flows, between the two nations. It eliminated many of the pre-existing tariffs affecting trade. US Vice President Mike Pence has even described this free trade agreement as ‘a model for the world’.”


“Wang Hejun, head of the trade remedy and investigation bureau of the Ministry of Commerce, said the U.S. measures are in essence trade protectionism in the guise of national security. He said most U.S. steel and aluminum imports are for civil use and by no means impair U.S. national security. Wang said the U.S. abuse of the ‘national security’ provision is a 'wanton sabotage' of the multilateral trading system represented by the World Trade Organization, and is set to hurt the normal international trading order. ‘China firmly opposes that,’ he said in a statement posted on the ministry website. ‘China urges the U.S. to respect the authority of the multilateral trading system and revoke the decision as soon as possible,’ Wang said China has lodged solemn complaints with the U.S. side through multiple channels and said China will assess its loss caused by the U.S. measures. ‘(China) will take strong measures to safeguard its legitimate interests,’ Wang said.”

“China should face trade friction with the US in a calm manner. Meanwhile, it must retaliate against US tariffs that forcibly interfere with Sino-US trade and violate World Trade Organization rules. China must show it won't be bullied. Beijing must never consider stabilizing relations with Washington by compromising on trade. We would only become increasingly passive. China and the US must resolve the issue through cooperation and both sides should try. If the US cannot adjust its own industrial structure to reduce its trade deficit and orders the world to follow its words, China and the rest of the world will have no choice but to meet the challenge head-on.”


"‘Such decisions are protectionist in nature. India needs to approach the WTO against this move as it would severely hit global trade,’ [Biswajit] Dhar [professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University] said. Former Commerce Secretary G K Pillai said the country should take action against America and also raise duties on products like almonds, pistachio and Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The US exports these items to India. ‘We also have the freedom to increase tariffs. India should also retaliate as the US decision will impact exports of steel and aluminum goods. You have to take action to protect the country's interests,' Pillai told PTI.”

“The US move to impose tariffs on aluminum imports may not have considerable direct impact on Indian metal industry, aluminum manufacturers said. The US decision to impose 10 per cent tariff on imported aluminum may not have significant direct impact on Indian aluminum industry, but it may have resultant impact due to increased availability of export volume for ex-America global market, Aluminum Association of India Chairman T K Chand told PTI.”


"‘If Trump's trade war eventually escalates, it can drag agricultural countries in. If the US blocks our palm oil, we will block their soybean exports to Indonesia; we can be self-sufficient,’ [Vice President Jusuf] Kalla said in a speech at the fourth Jakarta Food Security Summit. […] Only 1 percent of Indonesia's steel exports go to the United States, so Trump's proposed steel and aluminum import tariffs would not inflict a direct blow to local steel producers, said Hidayat Triseputro, executive director of the Indonesian Iron and Steel Association. But he warned of the possibility that Chinese steel exports destined for the US market may flood the Indonesian market.”


“Japan's top government spokesman said on Friday that Japan would continue to ask the United States to exempt it from Washington's plan to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Japan's steel and aluminum shipments did not pose a threat to U.S. national security and that they contributed greatly to employment and industry in the United States. Also on Friday, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said in a statement that the United States' decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum was 'regrettable' and will likely have a 'big impact' on economic ties between Japan and the United States. Kono said the decision would also impact the global economy, adding that Japan would respond appropriately upon examining any impact on Japanese companies and World Trade Organization rules.”


“Maintaining his earlier stance, Malaysian Iron and Steel Industry Federation (Misif) president Datuk Soh Thian Lai told SunBiz that the impact on Malaysia will be minimal given the relatively small volume of steel exports. Malaysian steel exports, which stood at about 96,000 tons, accounted for only 0.2-0.3% of the total US steel imports for 2017 of between 34 million and 37 million tons. Soh said Malaysia will still be able to find an alternate market to the US to export this 96,000 tons.”


"‘We are worried about what will happen,’ an industry source said on customary condition of anonymity. ‘When the tariffs are in place, it will deal a harsh blow to local steelmakers' profitability and exports.’ Another source echoed his view. ‘It will surely come as a big burden to steelmakers already struggling to cope with high U.S. import duties levied on their exports,’ the source said. America has already slapped anti-dumping and countervailing tariffs on 88 percent of South Korean steel products exported to the world's largest economy. With growing tariffs, South Korean exports of steel products to the U.S. came to 3.54 million tons in 2017, down a whopping 38 percent from three years earlier.”

"‘We express regret over the U.S. government's decision to impose tariffs on imported steel even though the Korean government has pointed out the problems of this action through various channels,’ Paik [Un-gyu, South Korea’s minister of trade] said in a meeting with senior officials from Korean steelmakers. ‘If this action takes effect, it would inevitably deal a serious blow to South Korea's steel exports to the U.S.’ […] ‘U.S. partners would question the wisdom of continuing to buy South Korean steel products if tariffs are put in place,’ Park Hoon, CEO of Husteel Co. told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting. ‘There is no other way but to ask the U.S. to give South Korean steel companies a break.'"

“‘Korea should not put the steel issue on the negotiation table for the trade deal. The steel issue was not originally included in the negotiation agenda and the two should be handled separately,’ said Choi Won-mok, a law professor at Ewha Womans University. ‘If Korea is exempted from the steel tariff at the FTA negotiation table, it will be in a difficult position to demand what it originally wanted from the US,’ he added. Korea’s steel exports to the US stood at $3.2 billion last year, trailing only Canada and Brazil. The volume increased 21 percent from the previous year.” 


“Taiwan will seek negotiations with the United States on tariffs to be implemented on steel and aluminum imports into the U.S., in a bid to protect the interests of Taiwanese exporters, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA). […] According to the the MOEA, Taiwan's steel product exports to the U.S. totaled US$1.3 billion in 2017, accounting for 13.16 percent of the total steel exports, while Taiwan's aluminum product exports to the U.S. totaled US$44 million, or 6.15 percent of the total aluminum exports. In 2017, the U.S. was the largest buyer of Taiwan's steel products, and the sixth-largest buyer of Taiwan's aluminum products, the MOEA said.”


“The MOIT [Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade] continued to affirm its stance that steel and aluminum imports from Vietnam do not provide direct competition for US manufacturers. The volume of steel and aluminum imports from Vietnam only accounts for a negligible share of the US’s total steel and aluminum import volume, so it cannot be a threat or a cause of damages to the steel and aluminum production industry of the US, the ministry said. It stated that the newly issued policy would directly impact US consumers and the US industries that use steel and aluminum products as input materials for their production. On the basis of the efforts to accelerate comprehensive partnership between the two countries over the past few years, the MOIT asked the US Government consider an exclusion for Vietnam-originated steel and aluminum imports to fall outside the application scope of restriction measures, as these products do not affect the US’ goal of ensuring national security.” 

Additional Topics in the Asia Reacts to... Series

 President Donald Trump's First Visit to Asia
US Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord
President Donald Trump's  Executive Order on the Trans-Pacific Partnership
 The Inauguration of Donald J. Trump 


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