Trump's new metal tariffs: America First, and America Last?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Donald Trump has admitted that he likes "conflict".
The former businessman said he likes having two people with different points of view. He said: "And I certainly have that. And then I make a decision. But I like watching it. I like seeing it. And I think it’s the best way to go.”
Yes, he certainly does have that - and he is the catalyst of the chaos. While he was referring to difference of opinions in the White House, he has extended the conflict he revels in to his international trade partners.
During his inauguration, the president did warn us that he was going to put America First. And his recent changes may put their allies last. Trump has signed off new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. The import duties - 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium - will go into effect in 13 days. Canada and Mexico will be exempt while they continue negotiations over the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Major trading partners of the United States are not terribly happy about the changes. Liam Fox, the UK's international trade security, called the plans "absurd" and "the wrong way", vowing to seek an exemption from the president on a visit to Washington next week.
China is furious with the new tariffs, with Beijing saying it was “firmly opposed” to the measures. They call it “a serious attack on normal international trade order”.
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said: “History has shown that fighting a trade war has never been a correct way to solve a problem. Especially given today’s globalisation, choosing a trade war is a mistaken prescription. The outcome will only be harmful. China would have to make a justified and necessary response.”
There are "only losers" in a trade war with the US, warns French economy minister Brune Le Maire. He said that any such measures by the US would be "unacceptable" and called for a "strong, coordinated, united response from the EU". The EU has already set out retaliatory plans to impose import duties on bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries, orange juice, steel, and industrial products.
Closer to home, Trump's own party have expressed their "deep concern" about the tariffs. More than 100 House Republicans signed a letter addressed to the president, asking him to "avoid unintended negative consequences to the US" economy and its workers.
According to CNN, lawmakers and aides have "worked for days to try and reverse Trump's course or at least get him to water down his proposal behind the scenes". Speaker Paul Ryan went public with his condemnation, telling workers "we're working on it" during an appearance at a Home Depot in Atlanta.
He later announced in a statement: "I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences. I am pleased that the President has listened to those who share my concerns and included an exemption for some American allies, but it should go further."
Donald Trump has attracted conflict from his political opponent, political allies and major trade partners with the new tariffs on steel and aluminium. The president promised to put America first in terms of trade, but his actions could result in a last place finish.