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China accuses Trump of damaging global trade with tariffs

In this March 5, 2018 photo, a worker manipulates coils of steel at Xiwang Special Steel in Zouping County in eastern China's Shandong province. (Chinatopix via AP)

BEIJING (AP) -- Japan and South Korea expressed alarm Friday at the potential economic damage from U.S. President Donald Trump's tariff increase on imported steel and aluminum and China accused Trump of damaging the global trading system.

    China's Commerce Ministry said it "firmly opposes" Trump's move but gave no indication Beijing might make good on earlier threats of retaliation if its companies are hurt. South Korea's trade minister appealed to other governments to prevent the dispute from spiraling into a "trade war."

    "We will urge the international community to refrain from adopting measures that inhibit free trade," said the Korean minister, Paik Un-gyu, at an emergency meeting, according to a ministry statement.

    Trump ordered higher tariffs Thursday, citing what he said was the need to protect U.S. national security by ensuring the survival of the country's metals producers.

    Japan and South Korea, both American allies, expressed dismay that they would be hurt.

    "These measures could make a significant impact on the economic and cooperative relationship between Japan and the U.S., who are allies," said Japan's trade minister, Taro Kono, in a statement.

    The new tariffs will take effect in 15 days, with America's neighbors indefinitely spared "to see if we can make the deal," Trump said. He suggested in an earlier meeting with his Cabinet that Australia and "other countries" might be spared, a shift that could soften the international blow amid threats of retaliation by trading partners.

    "Significant damage in South Korea's steel exports to the United States seems unavoidable," said Paik's statement.

    The Chinese Commerce Ministry accused Trump of damaging the global trading system by taking unilateral action instead of filing a complaint through the World Trade Organization.

    "The misuse of the 'national security exception' clause by the United States is wanton destruction of the multilateral trade system represented by the WTO and will surely have a serious impact on the normal international trade order. China firmly opposes it," said a ministry official, Wang Hejun, in a statement.

    Beijing has said it was ready to retaliate in the event Chinese companies are hurt but Friday's statement gave no indication of official action.


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