March 31, 2017 / 12:17 PM / in 4 months

Italy says Europe and U.S. should avoid 'dangerous' trade clash

Italian Industry Minister Carlo Calenda gestures as he talks during an interview with Reuters in his office in Rome, Italy November 25, 2016.Tony Gentile

ROME (Reuters) - Trade disputes between the United States and Europe would hurt economic growth and global governance at a time when the West needs to show a unified front against unfair trade practices, Italy's industry minister said on Friday.

"Any trade clash between the United States and Europe would be dangerous not only for our economies, but also for the rules that govern globalisation," Industry Minister Carlo Calenda told reporters in Rome.

Calenda said Western countries should refrain from trade disputes "that would symbolically show a division at a moment when the Western world should be unified in protecting its citizens from unfair trade practices".

His general comments on trade came after the U.S. Department of Commerce ruled on Thursday that foreign producers, including in Italy and Germany, had dumped certain types of steel on the U.S. market, opening the way for duties to be imposed.

Italy has yet to comment specifically, but Germany said the European Union should consider filing a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Emma Marcegaglia, head of the family-controlled Marcegaglia steel group that was cited by the U.S. Commerce Department, strongly rejected the idea of new border taxes.

"A border tax would be a declaration of trade war that should be brought before the WTO, and when you start a war you don't know where you will end up," she said.

A media report on Thursday said the United States was also considering tariffs on several products in response to the EU's ban on American beef from hormone-treated cattle.

Italy is hosting a Group of Seven summit in May in Sicily - the first involving U.S. President Donald Trump, who has pledged to fight trade practices that he says hurt American workers.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has said major powers should reject "the temptation of protectionism" at the meeting, which also includes the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Japan and Canada.

On Friday, Gentiloni told Italian business leaders and industrialists that free trade was "the biggest growth engine in history".

"The alliance between the world's major economies will be decisive in tackling the global challenges of trust and economic freedom," Gentiloni said.

Reporting by Antonella Cinelli, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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