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MELBOURNE, May 9 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto has begun shipping more aluminum to markets like Europe to offset slowing demand from the United States partly caused by the trade dispute between China and the U.S., Chief Executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said on Thursday.
Jacques said that demand for Rio Tinto's products had not been impacted by the dispute, which is threatening to escalate this week.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is set for talks in Washington on Thursday and Friday with U.S. officials who have complained that Beijing has backtracked on earlier commitments.
An agreement could avert a sharp increase in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods that President Donald Trump has threatened to impose on Friday. China has threatened to retaliate, raising the risk of an escalation in the trade war between the world's two largest economies.
"In the U.S., there is a slowdown in activities. I think it's fair to say the automotive (sector) is slowing down slightly, the construction is slowing down," Jacques said after Rio's annual general meeting.
"We are shifting some of our product from Canada to Europe, because there is some business case for it...or some other markets like Japan," he said, referring to Rio's aluminum business.
Rio Tinto earned $3.01 billion from its aluminum business last year. It produced 3.5 million tonnes of aluminum metal in 2018.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; editing by Christian Schmollinger)