Dr Liam Fox, the International trade secretary, hit out at the administration of Donald Trump over steel tariffs during a statement that he delivered to the House of Commons this evening.
Fox said that the United Kingdom has a “long and special relationship with the US. However, this does not mean that if we disagree with something, we will not say so, and we do disagree with the US decision to implement tariffs on steel and aluminium.”
He criticised the unilateral imposition of tariffs in the United States, which will impose a 25 percent duty on steel imports and a 10 percent tax on imports of aluminium, and stated that they “have weak foundations in international law”.
He said that the United Kingdom would be working with the European Union in order to formulate a response which could likely include immediate duties on the United States, measures to safeguard the European Union market from the displacing effect of tariffs of the United States and a dispute at the World Trade Organisation.
Fox stated that there were two exemptions to the tariffs of the United States, one which applies to nations that have a strong national security relationship with the United States, and a second which will evaluate the effect of the tariffs on individual products if there are no US domestic alternatives and there are considerations on national security. The second exemption would need an affected party in the United States to raise the concern with the US Department of Commerce.
Fox stated: “The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy will be assisting UK industry working with US customers to build their cases for exemptions.”
He also emphasised the strength of the national security relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.
Fox stated: “We have strong defence and security co-operation relationship as close allies in Nato, permanent members of the UN security council and nuclear powers. Close co-operation between the UK and US is vital to international peace and security.”
He concluded: “We are clear it is right to seek to defend our domestic industry from the direct and indirect impacts of these US tariffs protecting both jobs and industrial capacity.”
Barry Gardiner, the Shadow International Trade Secretary, criticised Fox for taking ten days to make a statement to the House of Commons after the announcement of tariffs of the Trump administration.
However, he stated that the Labour party would “not seek to make this issue one of party political points scoring” and would closely work with the government to support the steel industry of the United Kingdom.