Department concerned at impact of Trump tariffs on Irish industry

EU response to retaliate under WTO rules backed by State if US levies metals imports

US President Donald Trump  has said he would introduce a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium imports, raising the prospect of a global trade war including with the EU.  Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

US President Donald Trump has said he would introduce a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium imports, raising the prospect of a global trade war including with the EU. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

 

The Department of Business has expressed concerns about the impact of Donald Trump’s plans to impose large tariffs on steel and aluminium imports on Irish industry and the global trading environment.

The US president has said he would introduce a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium imports, raising the prospect of a global trade war including with the EU, which is looking at US products such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles, bourbon and Levi jeans to target in response.

The Government has backed retaliatory measures planned by Brussels that EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has said would be in accordance with World Trade Organisation rules. The EU is also in discussions about challenging the issue at the WTO and imposing its own tariffs if Trump imposes his.

“Ireland’s preference would be to see any US imposition of tariffs dealt with at the WTO,” said the department in a statement. “However, any such process could take a number of years to resolve with the possibility of substantial damage being caused to EU exports in the interim.”

Still, the department said that the Government was “fully supportive of the EU position as articulated.”

The EU fears that US tariffs will lead to a flood of dislocated steel and aluminium into Europe.

Aughinish Alumina, the Russian-owned plant on the Shannon Estuary at Askeaton, Co Limerick, is Europe’s largest producer of alumina, the powder extracted from bauxite to make alumina.

The plant, which is owned by Russian aluminium giant Rusal, employs 450 people and exports alumina outside the EU for further processing to aluminium metal.

The department said that the impact of overcapacity on import prices and the potential tariffs presents “a difficult trading environment” for Irish industry. It urged manufacturers to seek out other markets as a buffer against the potential imposition of tariffs.

“In particular from an Irish exporting perspective, market diversification will be an important mitigating strategy,” said the department.

Mr Trump has come under intense pressure from politicians in his own party, including Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, along with US companies and diplomatic allies to back down on his threat to impose the tariffs, but the president is refusing to budge.