Trade isn’t a game

The Labradorian - - Editorial -

It was, of course, en­cap­su­lated in the par­tic­u­larly dry lan­guage favoured by the ca­reer bu­reau­crat. No bard here. But the out­come was the same: a U.S. tri­bunal unan­i­mously re­jected Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s tar­iffs on Cana­dian newsprint.

Here’s what the tri­bunal had to say: “The United States In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion (USITC) to­day de­ter­mined that a U.S. in­dus­try is not ma­te­ri­ally in­jured or threat­ened with ma­te­rial in­jury by rea­son of im­ports of un­coated ground­wood pa­per from Canada that the U.S. Depart­ment of Com­merce (Com­merce) has de­ter­mined are sub­si­dized and sold in the United States at less than fair value.

“Chair­man David S. Jo­han­son and Com­mis­sion­ers Irv­ing A. Williamson, Mered­ith M. Broad­bent, Rhonda K. Sch­midtlein, and Ja­son E. Kearns voted in the neg­a­tive.

“As a re­sult of the USITC’S neg­a­tive deter­mi­na­tions, no an­tidump­ing or coun­ter­vail­ing duty or­ders will be is­sued on im­ports of this prod­uct from Canada.”

The panel will re­lease its full rea­sons, rea­sons that may be ad­di­tional de­li­cious bu­reau­cratic gravy. The meat and pota­toes of the de­ci­sion are that trade laws are not as sim­ple as the royal pre­rog­a­tive.

For the Cor­ner Brook pa­per mill, among many oth­ers, it was a sweet sort of vin­di­ca­tion. The U.S. govern­ment brought in wide-rang­ing du­ties that not only hurt Cana­dian newsprint man­u­fac­tur­ers but also ma­te­ri­ally dam­aged scores of U.S. news­pa­pers, the cus­tomers who ac­tu­ally had to pay the tar­iffs.

This is what hap­pens when you elect a pres­i­dent who lives on Twit­ter, and tweets things like “trade wars are good and easy to win.”

The truth is that they’re nei­ther good, nor easy to win. Amer­i­can re­porters and ed­i­tors lost their jobs through­out the United States. News­pa­pers made lay­offs to cover the new costs that may never re­versed. The U.S. col­lected tar­iffs it will have to re­turn, and the “good win­nings”? Good luck if you can find even the small­est scrap of sil­ver lin­ing in this cloud of knee-jerk pop­ulist baf­fle­gab. What’s the best way to put it?

Well, how about this? Turns out, the trade em­peror Trump had no newsprint clothes.

Let’s see what hap­pens with the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent’s sim­i­larly con­vo­luted steel and alu­minium tar­iffs, im­posed, so Don­ald Trump con­fus­ingly said, be­cause the sale of such ma­te­ri­als from long­time con­stant al­lies some­how con­sti­tuted a threat to U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity. Or the au­to­mo­bile tar­iffs he’s now threat­en­ing, once again, be­cause of a neb­u­lous na­tional se­cu­rity con­cern that seems like a con­ve­nient hook to hang an­other set of bluffa­tious threats on.

The won­der­ful thing is that, in terms of newsprint, cooler heads pre­vailed. It took a while, and it will prob­a­bly take a while for steel and alu­minium, too.

But hey, here’s Shake­speare, from “Mac­beth”: “Life’s but a walk­ing shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Sig­ni­fy­ing noth­ing.”

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