National's trade spokesperson Todd McClay says the Government has been late to the party in looking for an exemption from United States tariffs on steel imports.

Mr McClay says it means New Zealand exporters now face avoidable extra costs.

He says the Coalition has only just got around to writing to the US, while governments in many other countries have secured exemptions to the tariffs.

McClay says the Government needs to step up, take the issue more seriously and show some urgency and Trade Minister David Parker should get on a plane to Washington and make New Zealand's case.

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There's fear Donald Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminium could be extended to our other exports.

New Zealand exporters will pay tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium from today, but the EU and six other countries have managed to negotiate interim exemptions.

McClay admits we don't export a lot of steel but says the US is a very important market, especially for beef, wine and dairy.

He says if sanctions or tariffs were placed on those products it would have a devastating effect on some of New Zealand's most important industries.