US President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs met a barrage of criticism at a World Trade Organization meeting on Friday, as the European Union, Japan, Australia, and others joined a debate started by China and Russia.
The EU representative dismissed US assertions that the steps were needed to protect national security, saying Washington was just trying to support its industry, a Geneva trade official said.
The head of the World Trade Organization called on Friday for restraint and urgent dialogue within the WTO system to stop trade frictions damaging the world economy, which he said was experiencing a fragile recovery.
"Actions taken outside these collective processes greatly increase the risk of escalation in a confrontation that will have no winners, and which could quickly lead to a less stable trading system," WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a statement.
China and Russia have already said they are drawing up plans to retaliate to offset the impact of the tariffs.
China's representative said that the experience of the 1930s showed that trade barriers did the opposite of safeguarding national security, in a possible reference to the US Great Depression and the build-up to World War Two.
Russia queried the basis for temporary exemptions to the tariffs, which Washington has granted to the EU, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Brazil, said the official.
South Korea said countries should be careful using national security as a reason for trade barriers, as it might set off a domino effect with other states piling in to justify measures to protect their own industries. Japan said the US move was regrettable, and Turkey asked how it could be in line with WTO rules, the trade official added.
Others echoed the concerns about a domino effect and said it might damage the WTO consensus, under which states have shied away from invoking security to justify barriers.
Brazil said the issue could only be addressed multilaterally, but added that it was encouraged by US efforts for bilateral talks on the issue, the official added.
The US representative at the meeting did not respond directly to the criticism but said its tariffs were "consistent" with the WTO's General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
China has added two items that it wants to discuss under "any other business" at the meeting, which was already set to hear 15 trade concerns.
China plans to raise concerns about another package of tariffs announced by Trump on Thursday, to combat what he says is Chinese theft of US intellectual property.
China also plans to raise the issue of "US civil aviation security equipment measures", diplomats said. No further detail was immediately available.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)