MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday that U.S. duties on Mexican fabricated structural steel would not affect a new North American trade pact and had no relation to earlier tariff threats by U.S. President Donald Trump.
“These are isolated decisions,” he said at a regular news conference, adding that he would meet with cabinet members later in the day to discuss the matter.
Under President Trump, the United States has repeatedly used tariffs to protect industry. Trump threatened to impose escalating blanket duties on imports from Mexican last month but removed the threat after reaching a deal on migration.
The United States lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico in May imposed a year earlier in a national security investigation, in a deal hailed as removing a major obstacle to legislative approval for the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal.
However, the U.S. Commerce Department on Monday said domestic producers were being harmed by imports of fabricated structural steel from China and Mexico, and that it would instruct the customs agency to collect cash deposits from importers of such steel.
The Commerce Department’s action follows an investigation launched earlier this year that also included Canada. In its preliminary decision on Monday, Commerce did not impose duties on Canada.
Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, Jesus Seade, said late on Monday that the new duties affected only certain companies, not the steel industry as a whole and were of a much smaller scale than the earlier U.S. tariffs.
In 2018, the United States imported $722.5 million worth of fabricated structural steel from Canada, $897.5 million worth from China and $622.4 million worth from Mexico, according to the Commerce Department.
Commerce said it would collect duties from importers of Mexican fabricated structural steel based on what it considered to be subsidy rates of 13.62 percent on most producers and up to 74.01 percent for some companies.
The Mexican peso strengthened slightly on Tuesday after Lopez Obrador’s comments and softer inflation data in June, up 0.08 percent against the dollar.
Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrea Ricci