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UPDATE 2-Brazil to seek exemption from U.S. trade tariffs, minister says
(Recasts to add comments by trade minister, context)
By Bruno Federowski and Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA, March 8 (Reuters) - The Brazilian government will
try to negotiate its way out of newly announced U.S. tariffs on
steel and aluminum imports but could take stronger action to
protect its industry if those talks fall through.
Acting Trade Minister Marcos Jorge refused to rule out any
potential responses to U.S. President Donald Trump's
protectionist swing in an interview with Reuters, such as an
appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"We will work to exclude Brazil from this measure," he told
Reuters after meeting with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur
Ross in Asunción, Paraguay. "I don't rule out, if necessary,
resorting to any other measure to protect the national
Brazil, the United States' No. 2 steel supplier, exported $3
billion worth of iron ore-based products to the United States in
2017. That is a fraction of last year's $67 billion trade
surplus but still a boost to its economy as it emerges from the
deepest recession in decades.
Trump exempted Canada and Mexico from the 25 percent tariffs
on steel imports and 10 percent for aluminum, leaving the door
open for other countries to negotiate their exclusion.
Jorge said he expects Brazil, which has run a trade deficit
with the United States since 2009, to easily join that group.
In a joint statement, Brazil's foreign and trade ministries
said the tariffs will strongly hamper Brazilian exports and are
incompatible with U.S. obligations toward the WTO.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said Trump's
"unprecedented" decision had put trade relations between the
United States and Brazil in "uncharted waters" that could even
lead to retaliation.
"Nothing is off the table," said the official, who asked not
to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The Brazilian government will have to examine closely what
the U.S. measures involve because, he said, Trump's address was
very general and aimed at the U.S. public, but appeared to allow
for voluntary export restrictions and other concessions that
would avoid the application of tariffs.
The Brazilian steel industry association called the tariffs
an "extreme" measure that would place Brazil in a vulnerable
situation to defend itself from the current world oversupply
that will be increased by Trump's decision.
The country's main industry lobby, the CNI, said in a
statement Brazil should resort to the WTO and, if it wins its
case, use its right to retaliate.
(Reporting by Bruno Federowski and Anthony Boadle; Editing by
Peter Cooney and James Dalgleish)
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