Photo: Reuters

While wide-ranging restrictions on imports of steel and aluminum proposed by the US Commerce Department on Friday are still awaiting a final decision from President Donald Trump, many are urging prudence.

China’s Commerce Ministry warned on Friday that any action which affects its interests would meet retaliation, and while the Japanese government declined to comment on the recommendations, industry representatives are reportedly voicing concern.

The responses underscore the indiscriminate nature of the proposed tariffs and quotas, which has some in Washington concerned not just about economic ramifications, but about the damage the actions could do to relationships with treaty allies, such as Japan.

“The recommendations violate the principles of free trade, which are the foundation for development and prosperity of the global economy,” Japan Iron and Steel Federation chairman Kosei Shindo was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement.

“We hope Trump would make a careful and appropriate judgment,” Shindo said.

Yasuji Komiyama, director of the metal industries division of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, pushed back on the report’s findings, saying that “Japan believes any steel and aluminum imports by the US from Japan do not pose any threat to the US national security.”

In addition to reported dissension among Trump’s cabinet regarding whether to go ahead with the recommendations, which cite national security grounds for restricting trade, US lawmakers have warned Trump in recent weeks against such action.

The European Union has also signaled it would respond in kind to trade restrictions such as those proposed on Friday. It was reported last July that EU officials were compiling a list of goods imported from the US on which to enact retaliatory restrictions, including whiskey, orange juice and dairy products.

One official told the Financial Times that ensnaring the EU in such trade actions would also cost the US an ally in a trade fight with China.

“The signal that we have been giving is that we are absolutely ready to work with the US” on getting tough with China on steel, the senior European official said. “If despite that they are willing to do something that hurts us, it will raise serious questions about the ability to cooperate with the US on trade.”

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