WHISTLER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Finance Minister Taro Aso said Friday the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum are “extremely regrettable,” and that Tokyo could file a challenge with the World Trade Organization.
“It is undecided at this moment, but we are considering it,” Aso told reporters at the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Canada.
Washington claims the levies are a matter of national security.
Canada launched a WTO challenge on Friday, and the European Union said it would do the same after Washington imposed levies on its steel and aluminum exports “to protect America’s national security from the effects of global oversupply.”
The 25 percent tariff on steel and the 10 percent tariff on aluminum from Canada, the European Union and Mexico took effect Friday.
The issue was a key topic of discussion at the meeting, which is being held at Whistler ski resort, north of Vancouver. The three-day meeting has brought together the finance chiefs of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the European Union.
The six other members and the EU all voiced opposition to the U.S. tariffs, Aso said after the second day of the talks.
“The unilateral protectionist move does not benefit any country,” Aso said.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the United States was isolated during the discussion on trade. He was quoted as saying the group had devolved to “G6 plus one.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the tariffs are targeted at countries not responsible for overproduction, calling the U.S. duties “protectionism, pure and simple.”
In a meeting Thursday with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Aso pushed for a permanent exemption for Japan and asked for restraint when considering new automobile duties.
The U.S. Commerce Department recently launched an investigation into imported cars, trucks and auto parts.