March 9, 2018 / 12:37 AM / a year ago

Argentina to ask U.S. for exemption from steel, aluminum tariffs

BUENOS AIRES, March 8 (Reuters) - Argentina will seek to join Mexico and Canada in getting an exemption from U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which President Donald Trump finalized in a proclamation on Thursday, the South American country’s Foreign Ministry said.

In pressing ahead with the 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent for aluminum, Trump exempted Canada and Mexico in a move aimed at pressuring them to give ground in separate talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Trump affirmed that others could receive this privilege, through a process that will be announced shortly,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, noting that Argentina accounted for just 0.6 percent of U.S. steel imports and 2.3 percent of its aluminum imports.

“Argentina is not the cause of nor does it contribute to the distortions that affect U.S. and world markets.”

Aluar Aluminio Argentino, Argentina’s sole primary aluminum producer, which is 10 percent state-owned, asked the U.S. Commerce Department last year to exempt it from any adverse measures implemented after its investigation into the national security impacts of imports of the metal.

The company has also been seeking to diversify its export destinations.

Shares in Argentine steel producer Siderar, controlled by Ternium SA, fell after Trump announced the tariffs earlier this month, but have since recovered.

In 2017, Argentina exported $763 million of aluminum and $686 million of steel, each representing slightly more than 1 percent of total exports, government data show. The NAFTA market, which includes the United States, was the primary destination for both products.

Protectionist measures from the United States have tested bilateral relations, which have generally improved since President Mauricio Macri took office in late 2015 and sought to boost Argentina’s foreign trade after more than a decade of populist rule. Macri has said he is willing to challenge U.S. tariffs on biodiesel imports at the World Trade Organization.

Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Peter Cooney

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