The Commerce Department said Wednesday it has exempted some steel products from Japan and four other countries from U.S. tariffs of 25 percent.
The exemption applies to seven U.S.-based companies importing steel products from Japan, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and China, the department said.
It was the first time that the United States has taken such action on a product basis since President Donald Trump imposed global tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in March, citing the need to defend "national security."
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference the Japanese government "will tenaciously continue to urge (more) exemptions from additional tariffs."
"Imports of steel and aluminum products from Japan do not pose a threat to the national security of the United States but are contributing to U.S. industry and employment," the top government spokesman said.
The U.S. action covers 42 "exclusion requests" from the seven companies, including razor maker Schick Manufacturing Inc of Connecticut, cutting tool maker Nachi America Inc. of Indiana and specialty steel supplier Hankev International Inc of California.
Nachi America is a U.S. subsidiary of Japanese firm Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp.
It was not clear which manufacturers from the five countries had secured the exemptions.
The decision came after a process to determine whether domestic industry could provide products of a satisfactory quality and in sufficient quantity, as well as whether it was in the U.S. national security interest to grant an exemption for a specific product, according to the department.
"This first set of exclusions confirm what we have said from the beginning — that we are taking a balanced approach that accounts for the needs of downstream industries while also recognizing the threatened impairment of our national security caused by imports," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
The Trump administration initially exempted Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Mexico and South Korea from the import duties, but drew criticism for imposing the tariffs on Canada, the European Union and Mexico on June 1.
The tariffs were apparently targeting China as the administration continued to push the emerging powerhouse to reduce its excess steel capacity and exports, a situation that Trump says undermines American industry and jobs.