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Trade war

International steel conference canceled under trade tensions

Efforts to reduce excess output derailed as US spars with EU and China

A Chinese steel furnace in Dalian. Multilateral talks to discuss overcapacity have broken down after the U.S. placed tariffs on its trading partners.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Talks on reducing excess steel output worldwide have been canceled as intensifying trade tensions among the U.S. and other countries have left little room for cooperation.

A ministerial meeting of the 33-member Global Forum on Excess Steel Capacity was scheduled on Wednesday in Paris. Argentina, which chairs the gathering, informed the participants of the cancellation by Monday.

The forum was created in December 2016 by major steel producers like the U.S., Europe, China, Japan, Brazil, India, and South Africa. At the first ministerial meeting, held in Berlin last November, the members agreed to such measures as regularly reporting production capacity and working to remove subsidies that distort the market -- a move made with China, the epicenter of global overcapacity, in mind.

The ministers were to use the Paris meeting to discuss preferential policies China and other countries apply to their own steelmakers. They were also expected to adopt a report crediting Beijing's efforts to reduce steel capacity.

But heightened trade tensions have changed the members' tone. The U.S. placed tariffs on aluminum and steel products from the European Union, Canada and Mexico this month. The E.U. and others responded by filing cases with the World Trade Organization and studying retaliatory levies.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that he will proceed with tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods as punishment for violating intellectual property rights. Beijing fired back by imposing its own duties on American imports.

Looking to score visible victories before the midterm elections in November, the Trump administration is thought to be wary about the forum, which focuses on medium- to long-term policy. Plans for the next ministerial meeting are undecided. Japan will take over as chair from Argentina in December.

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