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Trump tariff move could spark trade wars that will hurt all: WTO

14 March 2018

Donald Trump announced hefty duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium, despite protests by many in his party and some of his top economic advisors. Canada and Mexico were temporarily exempt from the tariffs - but the Trump administration has suggested that'd depend on a new NAFTA deal.

It's about NAFTA, they say, arguing that the proposal is just tough talk and a brilliant bargaining tool in the ongoing talks to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement. One U.S. manufacturer after another has been destroyed by unfair foreign competition.

With those listed anti-American tariffs at work against us, what do we do? A week later, as expected, he signed proclamations calling for restricting those imports.

Canada, the top supplier of steel and aluminium to the U.S. market, has been temporarily exempted from the tariffs, along with Mexico. Tellingly, numerous major US military contractors - without any reliable source of aluminum being produced domestically - depend heavily upon imported Canadian aluminum to drive their operations.

Canada has vowed to retaliate if duties are imposed but Trudeau did not answer directly when asked what measures it might take. The move will certainly come as a huge burden to Korean steelmakers.

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While complaints about China's abuse of intellectual property rights are not confined to the United States, Trump's global steel and aluminium tariffs announced last week complicate Washington's efforts to recruit allies to help put pressure on China.

Last year's steel exports fell 30 percent from 2016 to 63 million tons, but that still was one-quarter of the global total and more than twice Japan's 30 million tons.

Brussels has pushed back the hardest against Washington's shock measures, loudly announcing a list of USA products - including peanuts and motorcycles - it could hit with countermeasures.

The potential tariffs would target the technology and telecommunications sectors, according to Reuters, but would not be limited to those sectors. But there is still room for further negotiations. The tariffs take effect in about two weeks, which means the president could still change his mind.

"More American workers lost their jobs in 2002 to higher steel prices than the total number employed by the US steel industry itself (187,500 Americans were employed by USA steel producers in December 2002)", the report concluded. He can propose a 50 percent tariff on a country or some products, and then modify his terms if some accommodation is made, or maybe double down if no accommodation is offered. While allowing some neighbors and allied countries to enjoy an exemption from the new levy, Trump called the tariffs a matter of national security.

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The U.S. tariffs could push producers to sell still more to Southeast Asia, depressing steel prices. In a meeting with officials from Korean steelmakers on March 9, the government said that it would consult with the U.S.to discuss tariff exemptions or reductions.

Gary A. Cohen is a Clinical Professor of International Business, Global Trade and Supply Chain Management at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. America's was the only economy standing after WWII. He might not understand the basic economic implications of his most recent moves, but Trump surely gets the politics of angering his base. But we still have to watch the responses from the nations that are subject to the new action.

As my research shows, there are always competing voices lobbying for and against trade protection, and those preferences alone aren't enough to push a protective measure into law.

The so-called Section 301 investigation was formed to determine whether China's practices were "unreasonable or discriminatory and burden or restrict USA commerce". Those things we're prepared to do. We both benefit from our transactions, but they benefit more than we do. China accounts for 24.8 percent of Korea's total exports, while the USA and the European Union make up 12 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively.

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Trump tariff move could spark trade wars that will hurt all: WTO