November 27, 2017 / 4:12 PM / 20 days ago

Germany wants to avert trade war with G20 steel summit: Zypries

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany hopes that a G20 steel summit in Berlin this week can help to avert a trade war, Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries told Reuters on Monday, warning that the EU would impose countermeasures if the United States opted for new tariffs.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose punitive tariffs on steel imports as part of his “America First” agenda, prompting fears that such a move could trigger a trade war with China and hurt growth prospects for the world economy.

In a bid to avert such unilateral trade measures, Germany, current chair of the Group of 20 leading economies, has invited all G20 member states and some other countries to Thursday’s summit, entitled Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity.

“I hope that we’ll manage to agree on a joint final communique, which is not yet certain at the moment, because we are still negotiating,” summit host Zypries told Reuters.

The threat of a trade war on steel has not been averted yet and the G20 summit should help to reach common ground on how to reduce excess capacity, Zypries told Reuters.

“We want multilateral agreements, we want to have jointly coordinated action between the states of the world,” Zypries said.

“Each country has to realize that it’s not good to act unilaterally - neither in the form of imposing trade restrictions nor in the form of developing its own ideas about how much it should export,” Zypries added.

COUNTERMEASURES

Asked if the European Union would impose countermeasures should Trump decide to impose new tariffs on steel, she said: “We still stand ready to take countermeasures if the Americans should start to impose such tariffs. We would be forced to do this.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said at a G20 summit in Hamburg in July that the EU would respond if the U.S. imposed punitive tariffs on steel.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to take a tough line on what he says is unfairly traded Chinese steel, even launching an investigation into whether steel imports pose a risk to U.S. national security.

Zypries said there were ongoing discussions with China, the world’s biggest steel producer and exporter, over a further reduction of its steel capacity, but there was no agreement yet.

Zypries, a senior member of the center-left Social Democrats, added that the United States and China would take part in the G20 steel summit in Berlin, but it was still unclear who would represent the Trump administration at the meeting.

Asked what outcome she would like to see on Thursday, Zypries said: “Unity at the G20 steel summit.”

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