International trade secretary Dr Liam Fox hit out at the Trump administration over steel tariffs in a statement to the House of Commons this evening.
Fox said that the UK has a “long and special relationship with the US, however this does not mean that if we disagree with something we will not say so and we do disagree with the US decision to implement tariffs on steel and aluminium.”
Fox criticised the unilateral imposition of US tariffs, which will impose a 25 per cent duty on steel imports and a 10 per cent tax on aluminium imports, and said that they “have weak foundations in international law”.
He said that the UK would be working with the European Union to formulate a response which could include immediate duties on the US, measures to safeguard the EU market from the displacing effect of US tariffs and a dispute at the World Trade Organisation.
Fox said that there were two exemptions to the US tariffs, one which applies to countries with a strong national security relationship with the US, and a second which will evaluate the impact of the tariffs on individual products if there are no US domestic alternatives and there are national security considerations. The second exemption would require an affected party in the US to raise the issue with the US Department of Commerce.
“The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy will be assisting UK industry working with US customers to build their cases for exemptions,” Fox said.
He also highlighted the strength of the national security relationship between the UK and the US.
“We have strong defence and security co-operation relationship as close allies in Nato, permanent members of the UN security council and nuclear powers. Close co-operation between the UK and US is vital to international peace and security,” Fox said.
“We are clear it is right to seek to defend our domestic industry from the direct and indirect impacts of these US tariffs protecting both jobs and industrial capacity,” he concluded.
Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner criticised Fox for taking 10 days to make a statement to the House of Commons following the Trump administration’s announcement of tariffs.
However, he said that Labour would “not seek to make this issue one of party political points scoring” and would work with the government to support the UK steel industry.