With the European Union vowing to return fire, and a host of trade partners slamming the move to impose the tariffs, Republican lawmakers have turned on the President too.
US House Speaker Paul Ryan and other conservatives are loudly objecting to President Donald Trump’s plan of imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
“We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement Monday morning.
“The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardise those gains.”
When questioned about the top Republican’s statement, Trump said, “No, we’re not backing down.”
Previously, he tweeted: “Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the U.S. for many years. Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change!”
We are on the losing side of almost all trade deals. Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the U.S. for many years. Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2018
Congressional leaders also haven’t ruled out legislative action if Trump follows through with the hike. Under the plan, the President would impose tariffs of 25% for steel and 10% on aluminium.
The chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Subcommittee on Trade, Kevin Brady and Dave Reichert, are drafting a letter to Trump “expressing concerns about the prospect of broad, global tariffs on aluminum and steel imports”, according to a spokeswoman for the Committee.
It is understood Brady wants to see more targeted tariffs on unfairly traded products, rather than broad measures that could hurt economic growth.
Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the finance committee, also criticised the plan, saying, it will be a “tax hike the American people don’t need and can’t afford”.
While Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, tweeted it was unacceptable that Trump had the authority to impose the tariffs without the approval of Congress.
In a government system with checks and balances, the President should not have the power to unilaterally levy or alter tariffs. Congress needs to re-engage in the tariff process, which is why I’ve introduced the Global Trade Accountability Act. https://t.co/Uj3JtyiOOO
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) March 5, 2018
After telling reporters that he won’t back down from imposing the tariffs, Trump said, “I don’t think we’ll have a trade war.”
Of course, just three days ago, he said trade wars were good.
When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018
The tariff announcement has seen a number of countries swiftly threaten similar action — a tit-for-tat response, which saw global markets shudder.
“Should restrictions be imposed on Canadian steel and aluminium products, Canada will take responsive measures to defend its trade interests and workers,” Canada’s minister for foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement.
The European Union has also vowed to hit back at the US, targeting the home states of key Republican leaders.
Products like Harley-Davidson bikes, Kentucky bourbon and Levi’s jeans, would be slapped with tariffs in response.
“We are here, and they will get to know us,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
Asked if he believed a trade war was brewing, he responded: “I can’t see how this isn’t part of war-like behaviour.”
I can’t see how this isn’t part of war-like behaviour.
Trump returned fire, tweeting: “If the E.U. wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on U.S. companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S.”
But he has also copped stinging rebuke from the World Trade Organisation,
“It is clear that we now see a much higher and real risk of triggering an escalation of trade barriers across the globe,” director-general Roberto Azevêdo said at a meeting of the whole WTO membership on Monday.
“We cannot ignore this risk and I urge all parties to consider and reflect on this situation very carefully.”
“Once we start down this path, it will be very difficult to reverse direction. An eye for an eye will leave us all blind and the world in deep recession. We must make every effort to avoid the fall of the first dominoes.”
An eye for an eye will leave us all blind and the world in deep recession.
A spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany “rejects” the move, and China added that it saw the reason behind the action as “groundless”.
“The American action to put sanctions on other countries’ reasonable steel and aluminium exports in the name of ‘harming national security’ is groundless,” Mr Wang Yi told the China Business Journal.
The Australian government, meanwhile, is looking to leverage its long-term alliance with the US, to gain an exemption from the tariffs.
“Australia and America have been allies in all sorts of adversity and conflict. I hope at times like this that all of our other friendship counts for something,” said Opposition leader Bill Shorten.
However, in an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, top trade advisor to Trump, Peter Navarro, said “at this point in time, there will be no country exclusions”.