August 21, 2018 / 4:20 PM / a year ago

BHP warns protectionism will stoke U.S. costs

BHP Billiton Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie is silhouetted against a screen projecting the company's logo at a round table meeting with journalists in Tokyo, Japan June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

LONDON (Reuters) - Protectionism will result in higher prices for U.S. citizens, a senior executive at BHP BLT.L (BHP.AX) said on Tuesday, adding that the mining company was already seeing the effect.

The world’s biggest listed mining company reported higher profits on Tuesday and said its business could weather market volatility linked to trade tensions between the United States and China.

However, Arnoud Balhuizen, head of marketing and supply, who oversees procurement as well as sales, said protectionism was likely to add to inflationary pressures.

“All economically rational people know that protectionism will not be good for the U.S. population. It will increase prices in the U.S. and we are seeing that in the onshore U.S. (oil and gas) for example,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“Steel pipes in the U.S. are the most expensive worldwide.”

In its economic and commodity outlook, BHP said the impact of higher steel tariffs in the United States was uncertain, but it was clear end–users in the United States were paying more for their steel than those in other regions.

Hot–rolled coil steel, used in construction has reached $1,000 per tonne in the United States compared with prices “in the mid $600s and the mid $500s” in northern Europe and China respectively, it said in its outlook.

Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Susan Fenton

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