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Expert: NZ could get caught in international trade crossfire

10:29 am on 4 March 2018

New Zealand's trade experts are concerned Donald Trump's proposed steel tariffs could mean New Zealand gets stuck in the international crossfire.

US President Donald Trump plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent aluminium tariff. Photo: AFP

The US president plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent aluminium tariff.

As a result, Canada and the European Union said they would bring forward their own counter-measures to the tariffs.

Mexico, China and Brazil have also said they were weighing up retaliatory steps.

New Zealand international business forum Executive Director, Stephen Jacobi, said the tariffs would be a very regrettable move.

"If this action leads to a weakening of world trading organisation and the rules, then New Zealand could well get caught in the crossfire, it will reduce confidence globally.

"It's sort of like a spark which could ignite a trade war," he said.

It's not quite the time to panic yet Mr Jacobi said, but he added New Zealand needs to be aware of the possible implications to its interests.

Trade Minister David Parker has stated New Zealand will not be making any threats of retaliation.

Mr Jacobi agreed this was the right approach to take.

"It would be very unwise for New Zealand to try and retaliate in that sort of way, what we want to avoid is tit for tat responses."

He said if New Zealand introduced tariffs it would make us uncompetitive, which the United States will now find.

Export New Zealand executive director, Catherine Beard said steel exports to the US are low and agreed the concern is the international response.

"In the short term I don't think we will be embroiled in it, but it sends a negative signal if people are starting to put up tariffs on different items.

I guess it will really depends if they put up tariffs on things that really matter to us, and then the other thing we have to take into account is if we have a free trade deal that takes precedent," she said.

She said everyone knows New Zealand stands for an open economy and the best option at this stage, would be to team up with like-minded countries.


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