The Guardian

Japan is considering slapping tariffs on US imports worth $409m in retaliation against steel and aluminium levies imposed by Donald Trump, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday.

As the Trump administration prepares to begin talks with China in Washington on Thursday aimed at averting a trade war, Japan said it was preparing to notify the World Trade Organisation of its proposal, the report said.

Tokyo’s planned retaliatory tariffs would be the equivalent value to duties imposed by Washington via its tariffs, according to NHK, but will be seen as a bargaining tactic to persuade Washington to add Japan to a list of countries exempted from the US tariffs.

Japan was the United States’ fourth largest export market in 2016, according to US government figures, and worth more than $100bn. The leading categories were food, aircraft, machinery, pharmaceuticals and services.

A government official said while Tokyo has been considering taking some form of action based on WTO rules, no final decision has been made.

“We’re scrutinising the impact of US tariffs on Japanese companies, and calling for Washington to offer Japan an exemption,” the official told Reuters.

Japan is the only major US ally that did not receive exemptions from Trump’s tariff decision, which came as a shock to many policymakers given prime minister Shinzo Abe’s close ties with Trump.

Tokyo has been wary of following in the footsteps of China and the European Union, which responded to the US decision with reciprocal threats.

The US-China launch talks will begin as public hearings close on the first batch of US tariffs on $50bn worth of Chinese goods proposed as punishment for alleged violations of US intellectual rights.

The tariffs, which target Chinese electrical and machinery parts, cars and flat-screen television sets, could take effect in early June, and may be followed by an additional round targeting $100bn worth of Chinese goods. China has promised to retaliate in equal measure,targeting soybeans, aircraft, autos and other goods for additional tariffs, causing US farm commodity prices to fall.

However, in China, a Global Times editorial said it did not matter if US-China trade negotiations did not achieve anything. “The market is king. Buyers are scarce and China’s massive market is our strength. When it comes to trade, Chinese people will always stand with the government.”

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