South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies says new ‘unilateral’ US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports are hurting the local economy, business website Fin24 reported on Wednesday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 10th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, Davies criticised the US for imposing tariffs in March without consultation with affected stakeholders – including the South African government. “Many of us have been affected by measures that have been taken by the US to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium products,” Fin24 reported.

“All of us in BRICS (the association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) agree that we are in a phase in the global economy characterised by unilateralism and discriminatory tariffs that have led to retaliatory fees,” Davies said.

US tariffs have rattled the global boatbuilding sector, including in the US where some boatbuilders have already reported negative impacts due to trade war fall-out. South African trade officials have questioned the unilateral approach; SA steel and aluminium products make up less than 2% of US imports. It is unclear how the new tariffs will impact on other trade agreements.

US tariffs also came under scrutiny this week during addresses by other prominent BRICS leaders, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who urged BRICS members to support each other to create trade and investment opportunities. Ramaphosa singled out several sectors with investment potential, including tourism, shipbuilding, ship repair and advanced manufacturing.

“We are concerned by the rise in unilateral measures that are incompatible with World Trade Organisation rules and are worried about the impact of these measures, especially on developing countries,” Ramaphosa said in his welcoming BRICS address on Wednesday. “These developments call for thorough discussion on the role of trade in promoting sustainable development and inclusive growth.

“As a country that is primarily an exporter of commodities to its BRICS partners, South Africa supports a shift towards complementary and value-added trade,” he said.

Ramaphosa also highlighted the potential of funding BRICS investment projects via the newly established New Development Bank “which fills a critical gap in project funding”.

“Since its formation, the bank has disbursed loans totaling $5.1bn, with approvals amounting to $1.7bn this year alone.

“As we enter the second decade of BRICS cooperation, we are determined to expand the Bank’s role in economic and social development,” Ramaphosa said.