Theresa May will use the upcoming G7 meeting in Canada to press US President Donald Trump to reverse tariffs introduced on European steel and aluminium, Liam Fox has said.
The decision by the American leader to slap 25% and 10% tariffs on the metal imports was wrong and illegal, the International Trade Secretary insisted.
But while he said EU counter-actions had so far been proportionate, he cautioned against measures that might spark a full-blown trade war.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today that the UK was still seeking tariff exemptions based both on specific products and also geographic location.
He said: “We will still be making that case throughout this week. We of course have the G7 leaders meeting at the end of the week where the Prime Minister will be raising this with President Trump alongside other leaders.”
He added: “The United States believes, I believe wrongly and illegally, that this is a national security matter for the US.
“Given that we export some pretty complex steel products to the United States which are part of their national security programmes themselves, this reasoning that is given is wrong and therefore we believe unlawful.”
Speaking to Sky News earlier this week, Fox said he would not rule out retaliatory counter measures as “you cannot look at every global issue through the prism of Brexit”.
The tariffs have been imposed on Europe, Mexico and Canada and came into effect on Friday.
After the announcement, stocks for industrial companies fell as they faced the prospect of paying more for metals they use to make aircraft and machinery.
Companies that make household items took some of the worst losses, as products including orange juice and peanut butter might be hit with European tariffs, introduced in retaliation to the move by Trump.
The EU has already threatened to counterpunch by targeting US products, including Kentucky bourbon, blue jeans and motorcycles.
Trump had originally imposed the tariffs in March, saying reliance on imported metals threatened national security. But he exempted Canada, Mexico and the European Union to buy time for negotiations – a delay that expired at midnight on Thursday.