Trump Authorizes Tariffs, Defying Allies at Home and Abroad
As a result of Mr. Trump’s action, levies on imports of steel will rise by 25 percent and aluminum by 10 percent. Business groups have warned that the effect could be felt across the global supply network as consumers face higher prices for automobiles, appliances and other goods. But Mr. Trump’s aides dismissed such predictions as “fake news” and said most Americans would hardly notice any impact.
The United States issued the tariffs under a little-used provision of trade law, which allows the president to take broad action to defend American national security. The Commerce Department previously determined that imports of metals posed a threat to national security.
The United States is the largest steel importer in the world and the order could hit South Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Turkey and Brazil the hardest. Mr. Trump said his tariff orders were tailored to give him the authority to raise or lower levies on a country-by-country basis and add or take countries off the list as he deemed appropriate.
“This has certainly put the fear of God in America’s trading partners,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor of international trade at Cornell University. The tariffs disprove the notion that Congress and broader business interests would prevent the Trump administration from turning its saber-rattling into real sanctions, Mr. Prasad said. “The day has actually come when real trade sanctions are on the board.”
The White House sought to soften the blow by temporarily exempting two key trading partners, Canada and Mexico, and opening the door to carve-outs for other countries. Mr. Trump said the order would temporarily exempt Canada and Mexico, pending discussions with both about the terms of trade, including already tense talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Officials from Canada and Mexico have said they will not be bullied into accepting a Nafta deal that could disadvantage their countries.
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, called the initial exemption a “step forward” but said it would not change Canada’s negotiating approach to Nafta. In a statement, Mexico said those talks would not be subject to conditions outside the negotiating process.