This Morning in Metals: Lighthizer Criticizes ‘Hypocrisy’ of Global Trading System

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This morning in metals news, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer lashed out at the E.U.’s retaliatory tariffs, the Section 232 exclusion request process has allowed for some commercial gamesmanship and automakers warns against potential tariffs on imports of foreign cars.

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Lighthizer Tut-Tuts E.U. For Retaliatory Tariffs

Lighthizer was deeply critical of the European Union and the global trading system at large, calling out the “hypocrisy” of the latter in a statement Wednesday.

“President Trump has taken actions on trade in steel and aluminum to protect our national security interests,” he said. “These actions are wholly legitimate and fully justified, both as a matter of U.S. law and WTO rules. By contrast, the European Union has concocted a groundless legal theory to justify immediate tariffs on U.S. exports. Other WTO Members, including China, have adopted a similar approach.

“These retaliatory tariffs underscore the complete hypocrisy that governs so much of the global trading system. For months, the EU, China, and others have criticized the trade policy of the United States, while claiming to champion the WTO. But their recent tariffs prove that they simply ignore WTO rules whenever doing so is convenient.”

While other nations subjected to the Section 232 steel and aluminum duties have argued that the U.S. is in violation of WTO rules and are stretching the definition of national security vis-a-vis application of the tariffs, Lighthizer reciprocated with a similar accusation.

“When the EU and others falsely assert the U.S. steel and aluminum duties are safeguard measures, and impose retaliatory duties under this pretense, they do great damage to the multilateral trading system,” his statement continued. “Indeed, they show that they are willing to distort WTO rules to mean whatever they want, whenever they want.

“Faced with these unjustified tariffs, the United States will take all necessary actions under both U.S. law and international rules to protect its interests.”

Section 232 Exclusion Process and Sensitive Info

The Section 232 exclusion process has allowed domestic businesses to apply for the chance to be exempted from the tariffs on the grounds that a certain product is not made in enough quantity or quality in the U.S.

According to Reuters, more than 22,500 requests have been filed so far. As we noted last week, the Department of Commerce announced it had approved 42 requests and denied 56.

In the process, sensitive information is being information is being broadcasted, information that competitors can potentially use to their advantage, according to the report, particularly related to company supplies and, potentially, imminent price hikes.

Pump the Brakes on Tariffs, Automakers Say

The U.S. Department of Commerce last month launched a new Section 232 investigation into auto imports, beginning a new round of speculation regarding the potential imposition of tariffs.

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Unsurprisingly, automakers think tariffs would be a bad idea, with industry groups saying they could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and hike prices, Reuters reported.

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