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UPDATE 2-Canada vows to protect metals sector, sidesteps call for quick action

action@ (Recasts, adds quotes from prime minister, federal trade minister, steel lobbyist, background)

OTTAWA, June 4 (Reuters) - Canada vowed on Monday to do all it could to protect its steel and aluminum sectors from U.S. tariffs but sidestepped an industry call to strike back quickly, saying it needed time to study the issue.

President Donald Trump's administration last week imposed U.S. tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum from Canada - the No. 1 steel exporter to the United States - as well as on Mexico and the European Union.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said talks with both industries about government help were at an early stage.

"We are having intense conversations about what we can do to support them," he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting to discuss possible aid. "We will be looking at all options."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later met steel executives and said: "We are going to stand up for our workers."

In June 2017, Ottawa announced a C$867 million ($670.6 million) package for softwood lumber producers hit by U.S. tariffs, and officials said they were looking at similar measures.

Canada retaliated against the latest punitive measures last week by proposing levies on C$16.6 billion worth of U.S. exports to come into effect on July 1.

Canadian Steel Producers Association President Joseph Galimberti said producers had not asked the federal government for financial help at the Ottawa meeting but instead pressed for the countermeasures to be imposed as quickly as possible.

"We are seeing customers in steel right now who are changing orders, putting orders on hold ... this is a dire situation for Canadian steel," he told reporters.

Trudeau later made clear he was in no hurry, telling legislators in the House of Commons that Ottawa wanted to carry out public consultations on the proposed retaliatory tariffs to make sure they were appropriate.

Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told reporters in Montreal that the government would study the impact of the U.S. tariffs before offering specific aid.

Canada sent 84 percent of its steel exports, worth C$9 billion ($6.97 billion), south last year, according to Statistics Canada.

The sector accounts for about 22,000 direct jobs and supports 100,000 jobs indirectly, Galimberti's association said.

Trade ties between Canada and the United States have soured since Trump took office in January 2017. The tension spilled over into talks to update the three-nation North American Free Trade Agreement, which have effectively stalled.

On Sunday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Trudeau was "overreacting" and that trade frictions between the United States and Canada were a "family quarrel."

($1 = 1.2929 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Leah Schnurr in Ottawa; Editing by Susan Thomas and Peter Cooney)