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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 November, 2003, 13:34 GMT
Asian steelmakers take aim at US
US steelworker
The tariffs helped protect the US steel industry
Asian steelmakers have said they will consider retaliation if the US does not remove tariffs on imported steel.

The warning came a day after the World Trade Organisation's highest court ruled that the US tariffs violate global trade rules.

Japan said it would retaliate if the US did not back down while China and Korea indicated they might follow suit.

The EU is set to impose retaliatory sanctions of $2.2bn on imports of some US goods.

Japanese trade and industry minister Shoichi Nakagawa said Japan would notify the WTO of its retaliatory measures if the US did not lift the tariffs.

He did not specify the size of any sanctions but Japanese newspapers said they were likely to be about 10bn yen ($92m; 55m)

Motorbikes and oranges

In China, foreign affairs ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said: "With respect to the further measures taken by various parties, it will depend on the attitude that the US will take."

A South Korean official said Seoul was studying its options and retaliation was among the possible courses of action.

The EU plans to target US imports worth $2.2bn a year - including Harley Davidson motorcycles, citrus fruits and textiles - in retaliation.

The US measures represent a significant and wholly unwarranted burden on our business and on our US customers
Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus
The US measures were introduced in March 2002, imposing tariffs of between 8% and 30% on selected types of imported steel, and hit Chinese exporters particularly hard.

While China saw its steel exports to the US fall 15%, it had to lower its own import tariffs and quotas following its entry to the WTO.

Along with Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, China had supported the EU-led complaint to the WTO last year.

Brazil, Norway and Switzerland also backed the EU's action.

New Zealand's trade negotiations minister Jim Sutton said he now expected the US to back down - eventually.

"They've always exhausted all means of appeal and then complied when they've lost in the past, and we expect them to do that again," he said.

Bad for US consumers?

A spokesman for Anglo-Dutch steel group Corus said it hoped President Bush would now act quickly to lift the restrictions.

He added: "The US measures represent a significant and wholly unwarranted burden on our business and on our US customers."

US officials said President Bush disagreed with the WTO ruling, although he had made no decision on a response.

The tariffs have been controversial in the US as well, with steel consumers such as the automotive industry, complaining that the tariffs have driven up their costs.

At least one report has said that more jobs have been lost in steel consuming industries than have been saved among steelmakers.

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