U.S., Japan to start steel, aluminum talks over excess capacity

Eric Martin

The U.S. is beginning talks with Japan over global steel and aluminum excess capacity that will also address Washington’s tariffs on exports of the products from the Asian nation, President Joe Biden’s commerce and trade chiefs said. 

The countries will seek to resolve bilateral concerns from global non-market excess capacity driven largely by China, as well as the duties the U.S. imposes on imports, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement Friday.  

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo

“The distortions that result from this excess capacity pose a serious threat to the market-oriented U.S. steel and aluminum industries and the workers in those industries,” they said. “The United States and Japan have a historic alliance, built on mutual trust and respect, and reflecting shared values and a strong commitment to resolving global challenges through closer cooperation.”

Raimondo will make her first official visit to Asia from Nov. 15 to 18, where she will meet with government officials and business leaders in Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.

Earlier this week, Raimondo told Bloomberg News that she intended to discuss the tariffs with Japan soon, and it’s too early to say how close the U.S. is to resolving the issue. She also said it’s too soon to say whether it can be settled via a tariff-rate quota, as recently agreed with the European Union. That mechanism allows countries to export specified quantities of a product to other nations at lower duty rates, but subjects shipments above a pre-determined threshold to higher tariffs.

The Trump administration imposed a 25% steel tariff, along with a 10% duty on aluminum imports, in March 2018 on a range of nations, using the section 232 national-security provision in a 1962 trade law. Some countries, including Brazil and South Korea, negotiated deals to avoid the levies, and former President Donald Trump dropped the duties for imports from Canada and Mexico. 

Raimondo said earlier in the week that the trip to Asia is broadly focused on starting the work to move toward the economic framework for the region that Biden wants. She is also scheduled to speak at Bloomberg LP’s New Economy Forum conference in Singapore on Nov. 17.