U.S. al­lies brace for trade war as tar­iffs take ef­fect

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

with the Dow Jones index dip­ping about 250 points.

But Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross doubted there would be any long-last­ing dam­age to the econ­omy or to the ties be­tween the U.S. and its al­lies.

“These are blips on the radar screen — I don’t think they change the fun­da­men­tals of the re­la­tion­ship,” he told CNBC. “Every­body has spats ev­ery now and again. Ev­ery fam­ily does, ev­ery coun­try does with oth­ers — there’s noth­ing weird about that. I think every­body will get over this in due course.”

He also doubted that Amer­i­can con­sumers will feel the ef­fects of the tar­iffs. As an ex­am­ple, he said they would raise the price of a can of beer by “a frac­tion of a penny.”

Mr. Trump, in procla­ma­tions an­nounc­ing the tar­iffs, called them a mat­ter of na­tional se­cu­rity. He said the U.S. needed a steady sup­ply of alu­minum and steel to main­tain its mil­i­tary strength and sug­gested that re­liance on im­ports un­der­cut that.

Po­lit­i­cal al­lies and op­po­nents of Mr. Trump ridiculed that no­tion.

“This is dumb,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, Ne­braska Repub­li­can. “Europe, Canada and Mex­ico are not China, and you don’t treat al­lies the same way you treat op­po­nents. We’ve been down this road be­fore — blan­ket pro­tec­tion­ism is a big part of why Amer­ica had a Great De­pres­sion. ‘Make Amer­ica Great Again’ shouldn’t mean ‘Make Amer­ica 1929 Again.’”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can, was less florid but still clear in his break with a pres­i­dent he has gen­er­ally sup­ported.

“To­day’s ac­tion tar­gets Amer­ica’s al­lies when we should be work­ing with them to ad­dress the un­fair trad­ing prac­tices of coun­tries like China,” Mr. Ryan said. “There are bet­ter ways to help Amer­i­can work­ers and con­sumers. I in­tend to keep work­ing with the pres­i­dent on those bet­ter op­tions.”

Mr. Trump sig­naled ear­lier this year that the tar­iffs were com­ing but also in­vited tar­geted coun­tries to make the case that they should be ex­empted. Brazil, Ar­gentina and Aus­tralia reached what Mr. Trump called sat­is­fac­tory deals to head off tar­iffs with quota lim­its.

Canada, Mex­ico and the Euro­pean Union ap­par­ently fell short.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­peat­edly used tar­iffs as part of get-tough trade poli­cies, with a de­ci­sion on au­to­mo­bile im­ports still loom­ing. That could par­tic­u­larly hit China, though other na­tions were also pre­par­ing for a neg­a­tive de­ci­sion.

The U.S., Mex­ico and Canada are also en­gaged in ne­go­ti­a­tions to re­write the 25-year-old North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment. Those talks also ap­pear to be go­ing badly.

Sup­port for Mr. Trump’s tar­iffs de­ci­sion was tough to find Thurs­day. Lib­eral-lean­ing la­bor unions, con­ser­va­tive free trade or­ga­ni­za­tions, farm­ers, busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tions, and Democrats and Repub­li­cans in Congress all said the pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion was mis­guided.

“These tar­iffs are hit­ting the wrong tar­get,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, Texas Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee. “When it comes to un­fairly traded steel and alu­minum, Mex­ico, Canada and Europe are not the prob­lem — China is.”

He said he would hold hear­ings and make the ad­min­is­tra­tion de­fend its de­ci­sions.

The Com­merce Depart­ment this year de­ter­mined a need to en­sure ad­e­quate U.S. steel pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity to sup­ply the mil­i­tary. Mr. Trump an­nounced global tar­iffs as the of­fi­cial re­sponse to that de­ter­mi­na­tion.

He de­layed the tar­iffs’ ef­fec­tive date for some of the coun­try’s clos­est al­lies to make their cases. The an­nounce­ment Thurs­day shows those ap­peals failed, and the tar­iffs will take ef­fect Fri­day morn­ing.

Mr. Trudeau was out­raged by Mr. Trump’s claims of se­cu­rity. He said the de­ci­sion was a be­trayal of 150 years of part­ner­ships in which Cana­dian troops fought and died along­side Amer­i­can troops against fas­cism and terrorism.

“That Canada could be con­sid­ered a na­tional se­cu­rity threat to the United States is in­con­ceiv­able,” he said.

Canada’s re­tal­ia­tory tar­iffs will take ef­fect in a month, but Mr. Trudeau in­sisted that Amer­i­cans shouldn’t take it per­son­ally.

“Amer­i­cans re­main our part­ners, our al­lies and our friends. This is not about the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” he said. “We have to be­lieve that at some point com­mon sense will pre­vail. But we see no sign of that in this ac­tion to­day by the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

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