US ‘not planning to start a trade war’, treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin claims

Brazilian finance minister quotes remarks by Trump’s treasury chief, apparently repeating remarks he first made before the US unveiled punishing tariffs on steel and aluminium

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 6:51am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 1:07pm

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying Washington is not planning to spark a trade war, reiterating comments he first made days before President Donald Trump announced punishing tariffs on imports of industrial metals. 

Speaking at a news conference, Brazilian Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles said he told Mnuchin the tariffs would be “counterproductive” because they would hurt US companies that import Brazilian semi-finished steel products and Brazil will seek an exception, Reuters reported. 

“Mnuchin said the US does not plan to declare a trade war,” the Reuters report quoted Meirelles as saying.  

Finance ministers from Germany, France and other US trading partners at a G20 gathering in Buenos Aires appealed to Mnuchin for exemptions from the tariffs, which the Trump administration claims are needed to protect national security amid a global glut of state-subsidised metal from China. 

China, US flex muscles at G20 meeting as trade war looms

The tariffs, which are expected to go into effect on Friday, were announced nine days after Mnuchin pledged in Washington that the Trump administration does not want a trade war. 

“The president has been very clear from his first meeting with President Xi [Jinping] that we have a large trade imbalance,” the treasury secretary said at a US Chamber of Commerce event in Washington last month. 

“Our objective is to shrink that imbalance. … Our desire is to increase exports to shrink that. 

“On a high level, [the Chinese] understand that and they want to do that,” Mnuchin said. “Our objective is not to get into a trade war.”

Xi Jinping and Angela Merkel look to G20 to tackle steel overcapacity

A communique released at the end of the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers in Buenos Aires reflected the Trump administration’s harder line in that it did not include a commitment to fight protectionism, as was the case under former US President Barack Obama. 

“International trade and investment are important engines of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and development,” the joint statement said. 

“We reaffirm the conclusions of our leaders on trade at the [last G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany last year] and recognise the need for further dialogue and actions.” 

Trump’s opening salvo in trade war with China misses its mark

While South Korea, France and other countries are pressing to be excluded from the new US tariffs on steel and aluminium, Beijing is preparing to face an additional set of punitive tariffs that Washington is aiming specifically at Chinese products. 

Trump will announce by the end of this week the imposition of a package of US$60 billion worth of annual tariffs against China, US media including The Washington Post have reported. 

That move would be the result of a “Section 301 investigation” into Beijing’s foreign investment rules, which demand the transfer of intellectual property to local companies. 

China has reacted to the threat, pledging this week to remove that requirement in at least one sector.

US unlikely to meet China’s request to name a point person for trade war talks

Speaking at the end of China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s annual parliamentary convocation, Premier Li Keqiang vowed there would be no mandatory technology transfers in China’s manufacturing sector.

“And we will protect intellectual property,” Li told reporters in Beijing.