China and South Korea are protesting U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to impose steep tariffs on washing machines and solar panels, a move that is fueling concerns in Asia that more U.S. protectionist measures are forthcoming.
Trump said Tuesday that the U.S. was also considering raising tariffs on steel and aluminum.
“We’re looking at it; we’re looking at a lot of things,” he told reporters.
South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong called the tariffs “excessive” and said they violate World Trade Organization rules. Kim said South Korea planned to file a petition against the U.S. at the WTO.
The tariffs significantly impact South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, which have captured about one quarter of the U.S. washing machine market that is dominated by American companies Whirlpool and General Electric.
Samsung said the tariffs are “a tax on every consumer who wants to buy a washing machine.”
China, the U.S.’ largest trade partner and the world’s biggest solar panel manufacturer, said the tariffs are an “overreaction” that would hurt the global trade environment.
Beijing’s Commerce Ministry said it would collaborate with other WTO members to “resolutely defend its legitimate interests,” without offering specifics.
Trump has frequently criticized China for engaging in what he believes are unfair trade practices that have led to the elimination of U.S. jobs.
“After a year’s preparation, Trump is ready to take action to address the huge trade deficit with China and get even,” said Zhang Yi, chief economist with the Beijing-based Capital Securities.
Washington will impose tariffs of up to 50 percent on large washing machines over a three-year period and up to 30 percent on solar panels over four years.
They were imposed after the U.S. International Trade Commission found that the imported products were “a substantial cause of serious injury to domestic manufacturers.”