TOKYO, March 20 (Reuters) – Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said on Tuesday there is a “high chance” that some Japanese steel and aluminium products will get exempted from new U.S. tariffs as they are not quickly replaceable. “I think there is a high chance that Japanese steel and aluminium products would be exempted from the new tariffs on a per-item basis, as they contribute greatly to U.S. industries and many of them have little substitute,” he told a news conference. U.S. President Donald Trump has pressed ahead with import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent for aluminium, but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies, backtracking from an earlier “no-exceptions” stance. Trump’s proclamation also allowed importers to seek exemptions for specific products. Japanese steelmakers and others are encouraging their U.S. clients to apply for exemptions, Seko said. Separately, Japan is seeking a country exemption. “We will continuously and tenaciously ask (U.S. Trade Representative) to exempt Japan from the tariffs,” Seko said. Japan exports about 2 million tonnes of steel products a year to the United States. That is only about 5 percent of Japan’s total steel exports, but its steelmakers are deeply concerned that the U.S. tariffs may prompt retaliation and trigger a trade war. Japan, which produces about 2.1 million tonnes of rolled and extruded aluminium a year, exports about 27,000 tonnes to the U.S. out of total exports of about 243,000 tonnes. Global automakers and vehicle suppliers are pressing the Trump administration and U.S. Congress to exempt the European Union and other allies from the steel and aluminum tariffs set to take effect on Friday, industry officials said.

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