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Tariff ping-pong: Washington slaps Vietnamese steel with more than 400% import duties

Tariff ping-pong: Washington slaps Vietnamese steel with more than 400% import duties
The US Commerce Department has imposed tariffs of up to 456 percent on certain steel imports from one of the United States’ major trading partners, Vietnam.

The department said in a statement that it had found corrosion-resistant steel products and cold-rolled steel produced in Vietnam using substrate of South Korean or Taiwanese origin. It said that Hanoi had thus circumvented US anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties.

Duties on South Korean and Taiwanese products were imposed in December 2015 and February 2016. Since then and through April 2019, shipments of corrosion-resistant steel products and cold-rolled steel from Vietnam to the United States had increased by 332 percent and 916 percent compared with similar periods immediately before, the department said.

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Last week, US President Donald Trump blasted Vietnam as “almost the single worst abuser of everybody.” In an interview with Fox News he was asked about imposing tariffs on the country. Trump said that “a lot of companies are moving to Vietnam, but Vietnam takes advantage of us even worse than China.”

Trade data showed that Vietnam had emerged as the main beneficiary from the tit-for-tat tariff war between the United States and China. Overall, exports to the US from Vietnam jumped nearly 30 percent from January through May. The country gained 7.9 percent of its GDP as it increased exports to both China and the US.

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The Southeast Asian nation’s annual trade surplus with the US has been more than $20 billion since 2014 and reached almost $40 billion last year. According to US Census Bureau data, that’s the highest figure on record since 1990.

Vietnam said it was working to reduce the trade surplus. The US Embassy in Hanoi said this week it was negotiating with the authorities and hopes “Vietnam takes steps in the near term to address our concerns in a constructive manner.”

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