April 21, 2017 6:00 pm JST

Asia braces for Trump steel probe

Beijing hopes for win-win, Seoul mulls WTO option

KEN MORIYASU, Nikkei deputy editor

TOKYO -- Asian steel producing countries are preparing themselves for a period of uncertainty after U.S. President Donald Trump launched a trade probe on cheap steel entering the U.S. market, raising the possibility of new tariffs.

"Without knowing the specific aim of the U.S. investigation, we cannot make concrete evaluations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters on Friday. Yet he stressed that dialogue had served well in solving trade frictions of the past.

"Nearly forty years of history has proved that a win-win relationship has brought tangible benefits to both people, and has also served as a huge engine for the development of the industrial and commercial sectors of the two countries," Lu said. Likewise, on this new probe, "a similar spirit can bring a good solution."

In Seoul, a senior official at South Korea's trade ministry told Reuters that the government is considering a response to the U.S. move.

"We are open to all possible options including filing a complaint with the WTO, but nothing has been decided. We will decide after listening to the opinions of the Korean steel industry," the official said.

Meanwhile, at a press conference in Tokyo, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: "At this point [President Trump] has only instructed an investigation. I cannot comment about the specific influence this may have." He did say that the government would "obviously" look out for how this might affect bilateral relations and Japanese companies.

The Japan Iron and Steel Federation declined to comment but said that they were confirming the details of Trump's instructions.

While fear of trade protectionism worried government officials, investors have dismissed any negative impact, for now. China's Angang Steel rose 0.6 percent and Japan's Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. gained 1.3%.

South Korea's Posco surged 2.5%, its biggest daily gain in more than three weeks.

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