Germany on March 24 called on the European Commission to back its steelmakers by insisting on global trade rules in a dispute with U.S. competitors.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has launched "dumping" proceedings against foreign steel firms, including two German producers -- suspecting they may be selling stock at unfairly low prices to undercut U.S. producers.
German manufacturers "have nothing to fear from fair competition," foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel countered in a letter to trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, urging Brussels to push the US to respect World Trade Organization (WTO) rules when judging the case.
"U.S. competitors may hope that the new U.S. government would be ready to allow them unfair dumping competition, even when that infringes the rules. We Europeans can't allow that," Gabriel said.
"In my judgment it's extremely important to take a clear position and not to start transatlantic trade dialogue with the new U.S. government with a negative and unjustified decision," he went on, according to extracts from the letter released by the foreign ministry.
If EU steelmakers are found to be selling steel at unfair prices and forced to pay high tariffs in the U.S., they could face "massive disadvantages in international competition," the foreign ministry statement said.
Berlin "has already lobbied for the use of recognized, fair rules in the proceedings with different levels of the U.S. government."
President Trump has vowed to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, if necessary by imposing heavy tariffs on imported goods -- a plan that runs counter to long-standing global consensus on free trade.
G20 finance ministers failed to get Washington to sign off on a traditional pledge to reject protectionism at a meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany last week.
Meanwhile, both the U.S. and the EU have sought to protect domestic steelmakers in recent months by slapping tariffs on some Chinese steel products.
China makes more than half the world's steel but a slowdown in its economy and sagging global demand has left the industry with huge excess capacity.
It has been accused of dumping its production on world markets, sinking prices and violating international trade agreements.
Trump's commerce secretary, billionaire Wilbur Ross, stepped down from the board of steel and mining giant ArcelorMittal to take up his cabinet post.
A private equity financier, he made his fortune through his investment company, which acquired failing steel and coal firms and then sold them for profit.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2017