Germany is urging European Union action against the U.S. in the World Trade Organization, after the U.S. Department of Commerce slapped import duties on steel plate from five EU countries, Japan, South Korea and Japan, and singled out individual European producers for tough penalty rates.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said the U.S. seemed prepared to give its own firms "unfair competitive advantage," but said this was against international trade law.

A spokesman for the European steel producers association Eurofer, said the U.S. move was deeply worrying and described it as "a deliberate intention to raise duties to prohibitive levels overnight."

The Japanese Topix Iron and Steel index dropped overnight, and was down 0.4% at 540.27 at 2 am EDT. Meanwhile Germany's Salzgitter, which has been hit with a 22.9% duty was off 0.77% at €33.76 at midday local time, while ThyssenKrupp (TKAMY) , which was not named as one of the offenders was off 0.37% at €22.82.

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ArcelorMittal (MT) - Get Report 's French subsidiary Industeel was singled out for the heaviest tax of all at 148.02%. ArcelorMittal's share however, which covers the whole group, was off 0.3% at €7.95.

The duties were announced on Thursday by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (pictured), who said that determinations of dumping had been made against producers of certain carbon and alloy steel cut-to-length plate.

The department's findings followed an investigation prompted by a petition from Nucor Corp. and U.S. subsidiaries of ArcelorMittal and SSAB, according to Reuters.

But the Eurofer spokesman said, "There is a deliberate intention to shut off their market from European imports."