Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Punishing the United States’ closest allies while sparing China, Donald Trump went ahead with his widely reviled plan to tax aluminum and steel imports into the U.S. by signing a proclamation doing just that.
The proclamation signed at the White House slapped punishing tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium. The tariffs will go into effect in 15 days and include exemptions for Canada and Mexico. U.S. allies that import both commodities into the country were outraged at Trump’s affirmation of this ruinous policy and have warned of new trade wars that will hurt U.S. jobs and imperil a growing world economy.
The tariffs will apply to all countries except Canada and Mexico, which will remain exempt while discussions over the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) continue. The proclamation contains provisions for other countries to get exemptions.
The top suppliers of steel to the U.S. in 2017 were Canada, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and Russia, Turkey, Japan and Taiwan. These countries — all of which are American allies — accounted for some 80 percent of the steel imported by the U.S. China, the country Trump said he wanted to punish with the tariffs, is not among the top 10 importers of steel to the U.S.
Trump signed the proclamation despite intense opposition from most U.S. industries and its foreign allies. His top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, a supporter of free trade, resigned in protest on Tuesday. More than 100 Republicans signed a letter addressed to the president, expressing their “deep concern” about the tariffs. Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a vocal Trump critic who opposes the tariffs, said he was drafting legislation to nullify the tariffs, saying trade wars are only ever lost.
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), warned “nobody wins” in a trade war, saying it would harm global economic growth. Cecilia Malmstrom, European Commissioner for Trade, said the move would hurt the European Union and put thousands of European jobs in jeopardy.
The EU has proposed retaliatory measures against a number of U.S. goods, including bourbon, blue jeans and peanut butter. China threatened an “appropriate and necessary response” in any trade war with the U.S. Other countries will sue the U.S. before the World Trade Organization (WTO) arguing the steep tariffs violates WTO rules.
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