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Trump Not Backing Down on Steel, Aluminum Tariffs

Canada is the largest U.S. trading partner and last year shipped $7.2 billion worth of aluminum and $4.3 billion of steel to the United States

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US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump. wikimedia commns
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  • Trump adamant about his tariff plans
  • His decision is facing great criticism
  • It can lead to heavy losses

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday the United States is not backing down on its decision to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent tariffs on imported aluminum products, despite growing pressure from political and diplomatic allies and U.S. companies to pull back from a policy that could spark a trade war.

President Donald Trump not backing down on his tariff plans. Wikimedia Commons
President Donald Trump not backing down on his tariff plans. Wikimedia Commons

Before a White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump suggested Mexico and Canada could be exempted from the planned tariffs if a new and “fair” North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is reached.

“For many years, NAFTA has been a disaster,” Trump said. “We are renegotiating NAFTA as I said I would, and if we don’t make a deal I will terminate NAFTA. But if I do make a deal which is fair to the workers and to the American people, that would be, I would imagine, one of the points that we’ll negotiate. It will be tariffs on steel for Canada and for Mexico.”

The three countries are currently working to revise NAFTA, with the latest round of talks wrapping up in Mexico City.

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Economist Gary Hufbauer of the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics told VOA that people in Canada and Mexico see the Trump approach as bullying, and that their officials are less likely to make concessions that look like giving in to a bully. He also said those asking Trump to back off the tariff plan are right to fear a trade war.

“Whether we get to a trade war will depend very much on the reacting of other countries,” Hufbauer said. “The tariffs alone aren’t a trade war, but if other countries react by putting fairly strong restrictions on U.S. exports you can say we’re edging into a trade battle and it may escalate to a trade war.”

Trump’s decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports has drawn strong condemnation from some in his own Republican party and from U.S. trading partners around the world. Analysts warned the tariffs will hurt many U.S. allies.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan meets with reporters following a GOP strategy session. VOA
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan meets with reporters following a GOP strategy session. VOA

Ryan is ‘extremely worried’

In a rare break with the White House, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other key Republican lawmakers are trying to convince Trump to change his mind and not impose the tariffs. Ryan and the others say the tariffs would hurt consumers because they could lead businesses to impose higher prices and undercut any positive effect the recent Republican-approved tax cuts would have on the U.S. economy.

The motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc. is headquartered in Ryan’s home state and is being targeted by Europe in retaliation for Trump’s plan to impose steel and aluminum tariffs.

Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement, “We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan. The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration has a “great relationship” with speaker Ryan, but “that doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.” Sanders added, “the President has been committed and talked about this for many years, particularly on the campaign trail, and the people came out loud and clear and supported this president, therefore supporting the policies he campaigned on.”

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Sanders said the administration is still finalizing the details of the measure, and she did not want to provide more information on the decision ahead of the final announcement.

President Trump tweeted last Friday that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” When asked to elaborate, Sanders said “the President feels if we ended up in a trade war, the President is confident we will win, but that’s not the goal, the goal is to get “free, fair, and reciprocal trade, and hope other countries will join him.”

Trump told reporters he does not believe his plan to impose the aluminum and steel tariffs will spark a trade war.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that it is 'unacceptable.' VOA
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that it is ‘unacceptable.’ VOA

‘Absolutely unacceptable’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the tariffs are “absolutely unacceptable.”

In 2016, the last year with complete government statistics, the United States reported it sent $12.5 billion more in goods and services to Canada than it imported, while it had a $55.6 billion trade deficit with Mexico.

Canada is the largest U.S. trading partner and last year shipped $7.2 billion worth of aluminum and $4.3 billion of steel to the United States.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s threatened the European Union could respond by taxing iconic American-made products, such as bourbon whiskey, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson.

To this, Trump responded, “People have to understand, our country, on trade, has been ripped off by virtually every country in the world, whether it’s friend or enemy, everybody. China, Russia, and people we think are wonderful, the European Union, we can’t do business in there, they don’t allow.”

$800 billion lost a year

Trump contended the EU has “trade barriers far worse than tariffs.” He said, “If they want to do something, we’ll just tax their cars that they send in here like water.”

Trump added, the U.S. lost $800 billion a year on trade, and the biggest problem is China. He said, “we lost $500 billion. How previous presidents allow that to happen is disgraceful, but we’re going to take care of it.”

In 2017, Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico accounted for nearly half of all U.S. steel imports. That year, Chinese steel accounted for less than 2 percent of overall U.S. imports. VOA

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Trump Launched A New Attack On Mueller Probe In Russia

Democrats also took note of the report

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President Donald Trump walks to an interview on the North Lawn of the White House, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington.
President Donald Trump walks to an interview on the North Lawn of the White House, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington. VOA

Outside the White House Friday, a media frenzy.

And at the center of it all, President Donald Trump.

“Can we do one question at a time? Wait! One question at a time,” the president scolded reporters.

Trump launched a new attack on the Russia probe in the wake of a critical report on the Hillary Clinton email investigation by the inspector general of the Department of Justice.

“I did nothing wrong. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction,” he said. “The IG (inspector general) report yesterday went a long way to show that, and I think that the Mueller investigation has been totally discredited.”

But the report in question only dealt with how the FBI handled the Clinton email controversy.

It was critical of the man Trump fired as FBI director, James Comey, but rejected the notion of a politically-directed effort aimed at Trump.

“This report did not find any evidence of political bias or improper considerations actually impacting the investigation under review,” announced current FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Democrats also took note of the report.

“Anyone who is hoping to use this report to undermine the Mueller probe or prove the existence of a ‘deep state’ conspiracy against President Trump will be sorely disappointed,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.

During his lengthy encounter with reporters Friday, Trump also defended his recent summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Former FBI Director James Comey begins book tour in support of new memoir 'A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership', published by Flatiron Books yesterday.
Former FBI Director James Comey begins book tour in support of new memoir ‘A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership’, published by Flatiron Books yesterday. VOA

“They are doing so much for us, and now we are well on our way to get denuclearization,” he said. “And the agreement says there will be total denuclearization. Nobody wants to report that. I got along with him great. We have a great chemistry together. That is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

Trump also lashed out at opposition Democrats and tried to blame them for recent administration actions to separate family members caught trying to come across the U.S. border.

“The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children,” Trump said.

A host of Democrats on Capitol Hill blasted the president’s comments, including Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico.

“There are no substantive defenses, no policy defenses, to their current actions separating families and taking children away from their mothers and fathers at the border. It just is another indication that they cannot govern,” she said.

Also read: North Korean Defectors Feeling Betrayed By Trump

Trump’s relatively lengthy encounter with the media Friday was unusual for a president who tends to favor appearances on Fox News Channel and who generally takes only a few questions at news conferences. (VOA)