Donald Trump has declared the US would find a trade war “easy to win”.
After announcing that steel imports would face a 25% tariff and aluminium 10%, the President also tweeted that the US was “losing billions of dollars on trade”.
Canada and the EU threatened counter-measures, while Mexico, China and Brazil also said they are considering retaliatory steps.
But Trump said the US will “win big” in a trade war, later adding that the US must “protect our country and our workers”.
The US imports steel from more than 100 nations and brings in four times more steel from abroad than it exports. Since 2000, the steel industry has suffered, with production dropping from 112m tons to 86.5m tons in 2016, and the number of employees in steel work falling from 135,000 to 83,600 in the same period.
No 10 Downing Street said the UK is “engaging” with the US on what Trump’s tariff announcement means in practice. “We are particularly concerned by any measures which would impact the UK steel and aluminium industries,” a spokesperson said.
UK Steel’s head of policy Richard Warren said the announced move would have a “significant impact” if it went ahead.
French economy minister Bruno Le Maire, calling for a “strong, coordinated and united response from the EU”, said there would “only be losers” in a trade war between the US and the EU.
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker promised to react firmly. “We will not sit idly while our industry is hit with unfair measures that put thousands of European jobs at risk,” he said.
China also condemned the move, with a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson saying: “If all countries followed the example of the United States, [it] will undoubtedly result in a serious impact on the international trade order.”