Trade war fears grow as Trump levies tariffs on imported steel, aluminum

Following through on his vow to aggressively confront other nations on trade, President Donald Trump on Thursday announced 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imported from Europe, Mexico and Canada would go into effect tonight, drawing immediate retaliation from Mexico, trade threats from Europe, and expressions of disgust from Republicans in the Congress.

"Tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are a tax hike on Americans and will have damaging consequences for consumers, manufacturers and workers," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

"These tariffs are hitting the wrong target," said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). "When it comes to unfairly traded steel and aluminum, Mexico, Canada, and Europe are not the problem — China is."

"This is dumb," said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who said protectionism had been tried before, and helped spur the Great Depression.

"‘Make America Great Again’ shouldn’t mean ‘Make America 1929 Again,'" Sasse said.

"This is a mistake," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). "Tariffs should specifically and exclusively target countries that engage in abusive trade practices, not our friends and allies."

"Trade wars do not end well," said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), as many in both parties have expressed concerns about Mr. Trump's aggressive trade actions.

"In addition to higher prices, these tariffs invite retaliation," said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).

Retaliatory tariffs were immediately announced by Mexico, targeted mainly at American agricultural products, while in Europe, EU leaders made clear they would respond as well.

"It's a bad day for world trade," said Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Union.

"We will defend the EU’s interests, in full compliance with international trade law," he added.

Mr. Trump's move came two days after the White House signaled that it would move ahead with $50 billion in tariffs on a variety of goods imported from China.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross denied that this was the start of a trade war.

"No, not at all," Ross said in an interview on CNBC. "As you know, this has been under discussion for quite a long time, and it's a very small percentage of the respective economy."

The Trump Administration argues that these new tariffs are being used for one main purpose - to force open markets for U.S. exports, and reduce what the President has long said are unfair trade barriers which hurt American exports, as officials routinely cite issues on the table in NAFTA trade negotiations with Canada and Mexico.

"The Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs have already had major, positive effects on steel and aluminum workers and jobs and will continue to do so long into the future," the White House said in a statement.

"At the same time, the Trump Administration’s actions underscore its commitment to good-faith negotiations with our allies to enhance our national security while supporting American workers," the statement added.

"Trump's trade policy: punish US allies, Canada, Mexico, EU while cutting a special deal for China's ZTE," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). "Making America retreat again."

About the Author