May 2, 2018 / 4:26 PM / a year ago

South Africa says U.S. decision not to grant steel tariff exemption could hurt jobs

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s trade department and labor unions said on Wednesday the U.S decision not to grant Pretoria an exemption from steel and aluminum tariffs could speed up job losses in manufacturing and mining.

Countries including Canada, Mexico, Australia and Brazil were exempt from the tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, proclaimed by U.S President Donald Trump in March.

South African exports of aluminum products are annually about 1.6 percent of total U.S aluminum imports.

The trade department said on Tuesday it was disappointed and concerned that South Africa was not granted an exemption from the duties and described the U.S. decision as “unfair”.

“It is important to note that some of the exempted countries are the biggest exporters of steel and aluminum to the United States,” the department said.

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) said in a statement that the decision “will only accelerate job losses in the manufacturing and mining industries” - key pillars of the economy of Africa’s most industrialized country.

South Africa’s scope to invest in infrastructure has been curbed by weak public finances due to sluggish economic growth, revenue shortfalls and costly bailouts of state-owned companies.

Job cuts are a thorny issue in South Africa, which is faced with near record unemployment of about 27 percent and subdued growth in mining and manufacturing.

Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg, Editing by James Macharia, William Maclean

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