WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday insisted ‘‘trade wars are good, and easy to win,’’ a bold claim that prompted pushback from a Nebraska Republican who quipped ‘‘kooky 18th century protectionism will jack up prices on American families.’’
Trump has declared that the U.S. will impose punishing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, escalating tensions with China and other trading partners and raising the prospect of higher prices for American consumers and companies. After the announcement Thursday, stocks closed sharply lower on Wall Street. China has expressed ‘‘grave concern.’’
Early Friday, Trump took to Twitter to defend himself:
He later tweeted:
Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican responded that trade wars are never won.
‘‘Kooky 18th century protectionism will jack up prices on American families — and will prompt retaliation from other countries,’’ he wrote in a statement. ‘‘Make no mistake: If the President goes through with this, it will kill American jobs — that’s what every trade war ultimately does. So much losing.’’
Trump’s announcement came only after an intense internal White House debate. It brought harsh criticism from some Republicans and roiled financial markets with concerns about economic ramifications.
Overseas, Trump’s words brought a stinging rebuke from the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who denounced his plan as ‘‘a blatant intervention to protect U.S. domestic industry.’’ Juncker said the EU would take retaliatory action if Trump followed through.
While not immediately offering a specific response on what it would do, the Chinese Commerce Ministry statement said: ‘‘The Chinese side expresses grave concern.’’ The ministry said Beijing has satisfied its trade obligations and appealed to Washington to settle disputes through negotiation.
Beijing faces mounting complaints from Washington, Europe and other trading partners that it improperly subsidizes exports and hampers access to its markets in violation of its free-trade commitments.
Canada, the largest source of steel and aluminum imports in the U.S., said it would ‘‘take responsive measures’’ to defend its trade interests and workers if restrictions were imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum products.
Should restrictions be imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum products, Canada will take responsive measures to defend its trade interests and workers.’’
Trump, who has long railed against what he deems unfair trade practices by China and others, summoned steel and aluminum executives to the White House and said next week he would levy penalties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports. The tariffs, he said, would remain for ‘‘a long period of time,’’ but it was not immediately clear if certain trading partners would be exempt.
However, critics raised the specter of a trade war, suggesting other countries will retaliate or use national security as a reason to impose trade penalties of their own.
Trump’s move will likely raise steel and aluminum prices here. That’s good for U.S. manufacturers. But it’s bad for companies that use the metals, and it prompted red flags from industries ranging from tool and dye makers to beer distributors to manufacturers of air conditioners. The American International Automobile Dealers Association warned it would drive prices up ‘‘substantially.’’