Macri urges Trump to exempt Argentina from US tariffs

Buenos Aires: Argentine President Mauricio Macri today urged President Donald Trump to exempt the South American country from US steel and aluminium tariffs. Macri made the plea in a phone conversation with Trump, a day after the US president signed off on the tariffs, sparking fears of a trade war.

“Trump undertook to evaluate his request for Argentina to be exempt from any restrictive measures that affect exports of steel and aluminium to the United States,” Macri’s office said in a statement. A White House statement said the two leaders had discussed “potential United States tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium” and had “agreed to stay in touch to strengthen the robust bilateral relationship.”

The Argentine government signalled its intention to seek an exemption for its meagre exports in a statement earlier Friday. Argentina’s exports to the US in the sectors are so small they have no effect on the market, the foreign ministry said in a statement. “Argentine exports represent only 0.6 per cent of steel and 2.3 per cent of aluminium of all US imports in both sectors, and therefore Argentina does not cause nor contribute to the distortions that affect the world markets and the US,” the ministry said.

It said the government would try to open talks with the US “with a view to an exception being made on those tariffs.” Argentina’s steel producers’ association has warned the tariffs could lead to iron and steel products from Asia being diverted from the US and dumped into the Latin American market. Two major Argentine steel producers stand to be affected — aluminium company Aluar and Techint, which sells seamless pipes to the US oil industry, but has a factory in Houston, Texas.

Between January and November last year, the most recent period for which official figures are available, Argentina sold around USD 200 million of steel tubes and around USD 500 million of aluminium to the US.