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Trump vows to go ahead with import tariffs

March 4, 2018

White House officials don't expect any countries to be exempted from the tariffs although US allies will be hardest hit. The plan has sparked a storm of opposition at home and abroad amid fears of a trade war.

Illustration shows a road sign with a silhouette of Trump, with one car crashing into another.
Image: Imago/Ralph Peters

President Donald Trump on Sunday appeared determined to plow ahead with substantial new import tariffs on steel and aluminum, despite a storm of criticism both at home and abroad.

No country will be exempted, the president's trade adviser said Sunday during an interview on CNN.

"At this point in time, there's no country exclusions," said Peter Navarro.

That sentiment was echoed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who dismissed Pentagon concerns that imposing tariffs on America's allies would hurt those relationships and hinder military cooperation.

US steel tariffs: A new trade war?

"He's talking about a fairly broad brush," Ross said of Trump on US television, dismissing threats of retaliation from American allies as "pretty trivial."

Trump announced Thursday that he would impose tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent respectively on steel and aluminum imports. His announcement roiled stock markets as the decision sparked fears of a trade war.

The president's rhetoric has been aimed at China, but America's allies, including Canada — which exports about five times more steel to the US than China — is likely to feel the brunt of the tax. Other US allies, including the European Union, Mexico, Japan and South Korea are also likely to be hard hit.

Some, including the EU and Canada, vowed to retaliate should Trump go through with the new tariffs.

Trump imposes stiff duties on metals imports

Abandoned by allies

Ironically, much of whatever political support Trump is getting is coming from the more progressive wing of the Democratic party. Indeed, during the election campaign, there were times when Trump sounded like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the most progressive candidates.

"This wave of globalization has wiped out totally, totally our middle class," Trump told voters in the hard-hit steel town of Monessen, Pennsylvania, during one of his campaign stops. "It doesn't have to be this way."

Democratic senators in Pennsylvania and Ohio — America's Rust Belt where thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost in recent decades — applauded the impending tariffs.

But Trump's Republican allies have largely abandoned him on the tariff issue. They say more American workers will be hurt by the import tax by virtue of retaliation as well as their dependence on steel and aluminum, regardless of where it originates.

"There is always retaliation, and typically a lot of these countries single out agriculture when they do that. So, we're very concerned," said Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota.

Trump also discussed the issue over the phone with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday. May told Trump of her "deep concern" about the announced tariffs.

"The prime minister raised our deep concern at the president's forthcoming announcement on steel and aluminum tariffs," a Downing Street spokesman said. May noted that "multilateral action was the only way to resolve the problem of global overcapacity in all parties' interests," according to the spokesman.

bik/rc (AP, Reuters)

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