March 10, 2018 / 3:09 PM / 10 days ago

Japan trade minister calls for calm heads over U.S. tariffs

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Japan’s trade minister sought an exemption from U.S. import tariffs on steel and aluminium on Saturday and called for “calm-headed behaviour” in a dispute that threatens to spiral into a trade war.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (L) and Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko take part in a meeting with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom to discuss steel overcapacity, in Brussels, Belgium March 10, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq/Pool

Minister Hiroshige Seko told a news conference his U.S. counterpart Robert Lighthizer had only explained the schedule and procedure of the U.S. actions in talks in Brussels. Seko said he believed there was still time for Japan to secure an exemption.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order on Thursday to set import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium, to come into effect in 15 days. But he exempted Canada and Mexico and held out the possibility of excluding other allies.

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“We expressed our concern. It could disrupt the steel and aluminium markets of the world and have a negative impact,” Seko told reporters after his meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer in which he sought an exemption for Japanese producers.

“We call for calm-headed behaviour,” Seko said.

Japan, he said, would stick to World Trade Organization rules in terms of taking measures.

“If there is a violation, then we will seek consultations. We will look at the impact on Japanese businesses and make a final decision.”

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel @AdeCar

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