March 23, 2018

Trump sharpens trade row, threatens to tax German cars

15 March 2018, 03:41 | Taylor George

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All indications are that this plan will go into effect, thus hurting a growing US economy and numerous voters, in Oklahoma and elsewhere, who helped to put Trump in the White House in the first place.

After pressure from allies, the United States has opened the way for more exemptions from tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium that USA president Donald Trump set last week. He was to also visit three Canadian steel cities this week to reassure workers. That will be hard according to people actually watching the negotiations as Trump's trade team, led by trade czar Robert Lighthizer and commerce chief Wilbur Ross, are asking for things that Canada and Mexico would never give. "We don't comment on internal meetings, but no final decisions have been made on content or timing", said a White House official.

"The American steel, aluminum industry has been ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices", he said. The tariffs take effect in about two weeks, which means the president could still change his mind. Zhong, speaking on the sidelines of China's annual session of parliament, said China does not want a trade war and will not initiate one. As a presidential candidate, Trump had campaigned against NAFTA as a job-killing disaster that he said encouraged American companies to move factories to Mexico to exploit cheap labor.

But Trump said on Twitter on Saturday: "The European Union, wonderful countries who treat the United States very badly on trade, are complaining about the tariffs on steel and aluminium". "We will continue working toward securing a definite and permanent exemption from those tariffs", Trudeau said earlier.

Trump returned to the offensive over the weekend, raising the prospect of higher levies on European cars and telling supporters at a rally that the countries of the EU have banded together "to screw the USA on trade". Meanwhile, one United States study has estimated that the tariffs will bring back around 33,500 jobs in steel and aluminium, but ultimately result in a net loss of 146,000 jobs across the whole United States economy.

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Sal Guatieri, economist at BMO, said US consumers will feel the pinch as manufacturers pass on the higher costs of production materials. And Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin called the tariffs "a very risky action" that could put agricultural and manufacturing jobs at risk.

Azevedo said Brazil was "exploring alternatives" for responding to the tariffs.

The retaliatory tariffs on steel and aluminum are to some extent attributable to Trump's political calculations related to the mid-term elections and his protectionist view of global trade.

While the tariffs would be chiefly targeted at information technology, consumer electronics and telecoms, they could be much broader and the list could eventually run to 100 products.

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