U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign executive orders on Friday aimed at identifying abuses causing huge U.S. trade deficits. He is also preparing to meet Chinese President Xi next week in Florida, with contentious trade issues likely to be high on the agenda.
Global steel prices have slumped as Chinese producers, who account for about half of the worldwide steel supply, have flooded the export markets, leading to protests and anti-dumping complaints by the United States, the European Union and others.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a final finding that European and Asian producers dumped certain carbon and alloy steel cut-to-length plate in the U.S. market, allowing it to impose duties ranging from 3.62 percent to 148 percent.
Among the affected companies are firms in Germany, Austria, Belgium, France and Italy.
Gabriel said the U.S. government seemed prepared to give U.S. firms an "unfair competitive advantage" over European producers even though this violated international trade law.
"We Europeans cannot accept this. The EU must now examine whether it also files a complaint at the WTO. I strongly support this," Gabriel said. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, is in charge of trade matters in the 28-member bloc.
"The WTO rules are the backbone of the international trade order. To deliberately violate them is a dangerous step," he said. "It is the first time that the U.S. in such a case resorts to distorting practices that do not comply with the WTO rules."
In Brussels, a spokesman for the European Commission said it regretted the U.S. move to impose anti-dumping measures, adding that the duties were "artificially inflated".
Gabriel also said Germany had to stand up to the U.S. and fight "accounting tricks" that put Germany's internationally competitive steel industry at a disadvantage.
"If the U.S. got through with unfair competition, other industries would also be subject to the same threat," Gabriel warned.
Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said Germany would, along with the European Commission, continue to campaign for Washington to stick to WTO rules.
"The signals the U.S. is sending in the steel sector really worry us," Zypries said, adding that she would raise the issue when she visits the United States in May.
Read more: Germany urges EU to file WTO complaint against U.S. in steel row | News | KFGO-790