Saturday, 19 January, 2019

'High level of concern' amongst Republicans about proposed steel tariffs

ImageMichael D. Cohen a longtime personal lawyer for President Trump in September ImageMichael D. Cohen a longtime personal lawyer for President Trump in September
Melinda Barton | 07 March, 2018, 12:24

Director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Roberto Azevedo warned on Monday that Trump's decision to place stiff tariffs on aluminum and steel imports could lead the world into a "deep recession" and called on the US President to reverse the course.

This prompted Trump to fire back a threat to tax cars from the European Union, further fuelling fears of a full-on transatlantic trade war erupting.

Republicans in Congress are mounting an unusual public campaign to thwart the tariffs, with House Speaker Paul Ryan's spokesman, AshLee Strong, releasing a statement urging the president to halt the plan, a rare public break between the two GOP leaders.

Trump announced Thursday his plans to impose a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% tariff on imported aluminum.

"I fear the longer we proceed, the more political headwinds we will feel", he said.

"The United States has been taken advantage of by other countries. for many many decades".

President Trump cited European Union restrictions and how they impede US exports to the region.

"It's a fraction of what it once was, and we can't lose our aluminum industry, also a fraction of what it once was".

The administration has argued the tariffs are necessary to preserve the American aluminum and steel industries and protect national security.

Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said there was a "high level of concern" among his party about "interfering with an economy that appears to be taking off", as he pledged to attain more detail from the White House about the planned tariffs.

"When we're behind on every single country, trade wars aren't so bad", the president contended, arguing that trade deficits necessitate that he take action to balance USA trading relationships.

"For me, it is crucially important that we have this free trade", he said.

Trump held out the prospect that close US trading partners Canada and Mexico could avoid the steep tariffs if they reached a deal with the United States in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Clearly, there is overcapacity dumping in trans-shipping of steel and aluminum by some countries, particularly China, but I think the smarter way to go is to make it more surgical or more targeted", Ryan told reporters, Efe reported. But Trump's comments and tweets early Monday suggested he was also using them as leverage in the current talks to revise NAFTA.

Canada is the largest supplier of both steel and aluminum to the United States.

Wall Street steadied on Tuesday as signs of easing tensions in the Korean Peninsula and political pressure against US metals tariffs offset the fears of a global trade war that have dominated markets since last week.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Trump repeated his belief that the United States would win in a trade war.