Wales first minister Carwyn Jones has said a return to the protectionism of the past is not the answer following US President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive order calling on the US Department of Commerce to impose a 25% on steel imports.
Mr Jones tweeted: “A return to the protectionism of the past is not the answer and we have already written to the UK Government to express our serious concerns about the potential impact US tariffs could have on the Welsh steel industry.
We remain absolutely committed to doing all we can to support our steel industry and to promoting international trade, which is vital to ensuring the prosperity of Welsh people and communities.”
Carwyn Jones was responding to the news that US President Donald Trump had signed a proclamation to levy a 25% tariff on steel imported into the U.S.
Trump has vowed to fight back against an “assault on our country” by foreign competitors – he has however agreed to exemptions for Canada and Mexico while negotiating for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
As well as the 25% tarriff Trump also signed a proclamtion for a 10% penalty on aluminium imports, he said;
“A strong steel and aluminium industry are vital to our national security, steel is steel.
You don’t have steel, you don’t have a country, our industries have been targeted for years, decades in fact by unfair foreign trade practices.
It has lead to shuttered plant and mills with the lay off of millions workers and the deteriotion of entire communities, that is going to stop. ”
The tariffs, which will come into force within 15 days, are expected to lead to retaliation from the EU.
The UK will seek an exemption from the tariffs according to Trade Secretary Liam Fox who says he will travel to Washington next week to discuss the new duties.
He said: “We will, of course, be looking to see how we can maximise the UK’s case for exemption under these particular circumstances.”
Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, the steelworkers’ union said Trump’s move is a short-sighted strategy will put jobs at risk on both sides of the Atlantic.
“This news is disappointing, but sadly not surprising. Instead of attacking its allies like this, the USA should be working in partnership with the UK, the EU and others to jointly tackle the problems of global overcapacity.
Thousands of people have supported Community and UK Steel’s campaign in the past few days. It is now more important than ever that Theresa May and Liam Fox use every bit of influence they have left in America to protect the jobs of British steelworkers.
The steel crisis cost our industry thousands of jobs and the last thing we need now is a global trade war. The UK government must work with other EU nations to ensure we do not suffer the global consequences of Donald Trump’s actions.
Community, the steelworker’s union, will continue to lead the campaign to secure the future of our industry. In the coming days and weeks we will continue discussions with politicians and steelmakers around the world to assess how best we can defend steelworkers jobs.”
Wales’ biggest market for steel experts outside of the EU is the US, Tata steel’s Port Talbot plant exports a reported 10% of its products to the US.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said;
“The EU is a close ally of the US and we continue to be of the view that the EU should be excluded from these measures.
I will seek more clarity on this issue in the days to come. Looking forward to meeting USTR Lighthizer in Brussels on Sat to discuss.”