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Europe's largest aluminum producer is dodging US tariffs

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Norway, Europe's largest producer of aluminium, is counting its blessings that only a minuscule amount of the metal it ships abroad is sold to the US.

[OSLO] Norway, Europe's largest producer of aluminium, is counting its blessings that only a minuscule amount of the metal it ships abroad is sold to the US.

About 97 per cent of Norway's 31.9 billion kroner (S$5.2 billion) in aluminium exports last year to European markets, while only 0.2 per cent was sent to the US, Statistics Norway said in a new report on Tuesday.

Norway also benefited as the European Union has decided to keep the Nordic country out of any retaliatory measures. Norway is a member of the internal market through the European Economic Area agreement.

But the statistics agency also raised a warning finger. Exports would take a hit should the US introduce increased tariffs on European cars. Norway is home to aluminium producer Norsk Hydro ASA. "Increased tariffs could lead to a spiral of retribution, with tariffs on more goods from several countries," the agency said.

The chief executive officer of Norsk Hydro said that profitability hasn't been hurt by the steeper tariffs. "We have the same margins in the US now as before prices have gone up and that means that consumers and end-products in the US are paying the bill," Svein Richard Brandtzaeg said in an interview on Tuesday.

Norway, which has a trade deficit with the US, voiced its dismay with the escalating trade tensions. "In addition to the climate this creates for international trade, it's also from a Norwegian point of view completely incomprehensible and grossly unfair if it were to hit Norway," Trade Minister Torbjorn Roe Isaksen said in an interview.

Excluding oil and gas, aluminum accounted for almost 8 per cent of Norway's exports in 2017.

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