Trump & Trade 2018 – 2019

Written by  //  August 25, 2019  //  Trade & Tariffs, U.S.  //  Comments Off on Trump & Trade 2018 – 2019

See also Trade & Tariffs
USMCA (formerly known as NAFTA)
Trump administration U.S. – China relations

25 August
Trump Offers Contradictory Signals on China Trade War
(NYT) President Trump offered deeply contradictory signals about his trade war with China on Sunday, ending the day by escalating his threats of higher tariffs even as he remained isolated from fellow world leaders on a strategy that has rattled the global economy.
A day after defending his authority to order American companies out of China, Mr. Trump started Sunday by conceding that he was having “second thoughts” about a new round of levies on Chinese goods. Within hours, he abruptly reversed himself again, saying that he only regretted not raising tariffs even higher.
The president’s rhetorical whipsaw …  injected fresh uncertainty into Mr. Trump’s efforts to try to change Chinese behavior by gambling on the fate of hundreds of billions of dollars in products that flow between the two countries.
Allies of the United States have long agreed that China’s policies are a threat, but there is little consensus behind Mr. Trump’s approach, and a deep nervousness that the president is going to tip the global economy into recession, hitting already trembling European economies particularly hard.
But far from using the gathering here to assemble a united front against Chinese trade policies, Mr. Trump set himself apart once again by making it clear he has no intention of backing down.

23-24 August
‘Senseless disputes’: E.U.’s Tusk says Trump’s trade wars are damaging global economy
(WaPo) “This may be the last moment to restore our political community,” he told reporters at the beginning of the Group of Seven summit here.
In response to a question, Tusk questioned Trump’s motivation in trade wars launched by the United States.
“For me it’s absolutely clear that if someone, for example . . . the United States and President Trump, uses tariffs and taxation as a political instrument, tool for some different political reasons, it means that this confrontation can be really risky for the whole world, including the E.U.,” Tusk said. “This is why we need the G-7.”
But in a sign that leaders are bracing for things to only get worse, Tusk said the E.U. was ready to retaliate against Trump if the U.S. leader followed through on some of his trade-related threats directed at France. Trump has said he will impose tariffs on French wine because France recently imposed taxes that impact U.S. technology companies.
What to expect as G7 leaders meet in France
(Open Canada) While economic issues are principally addressed in the Group of Twenty, they form the backdrop for this meeting with growing concerns about global economic growth. Of particular concern is the impact of recent trade wars initiated by Trump. At the same time, Trump is threatening new trade actions, particularly in Europe (on items including German cars and French wine). And, to address concerns about tax rules that allow large technology companies to escape fair taxation, France has imposed a three percent digital tax pending broader agreement in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The United States has argued that this is unfairly aimed at US companies and a related dispute is likely in Biarritz. … We must hope that leaders can find some progress on some of these issues, but it is hard to find reason for optimism. The biggest achievement that could be hoped for would be an end to the trade wars initiated by Trump. Alas, this is but a dream unless the United States were to make a dramatic change its current policy.

19 June
China Is Cutting Tariffs—For Everyone Else
(The Atlantic) As Trump focuses on disruption, Beijing is evidently operating on a higher level.
First, while Trump is on the verge of slapping tariffs on almost everything the U.S. imports from China, Beijing is picking and choosing wisely.
Second, Trump has no real mitigation strategy to help the Americans facing the entirely foreseeable costs of his policies.

7 June
Trump Calls Off Plan to Impose Tariffs on Mexico
(NYT) President Trump backed off his plan to impose tariffs on all Mexican goods and announced via Twitter on Friday night that the United States had reached an agreement with Mexico to reduce the flow of migrants to the southwestern border. Mr. Trump tweeted the announcement only hours after returning from Europe and following several days of intense and sometimes difficult negotiations between American and Mexican officials in Washington.
The president’s threat that he would impose potentially crippling tariffs on the United States’ largest trading partner and one of its closest allies brought both countries to the brink of an economic and diplomatic crisis — only to be yanked back from the precipice nine days later. The threat had rattled companies across North America, including automakers and agricultural firms, which have built supply chains across Mexico, the United States and Canada.
Businesses had warned that the tariffs would increase costs for American consumers, who import everything from cucumbers to refrigerators from Mexico, and prompt retaliation from the Mexican government in the form of new trade barriers that would damage the United States economy.
But the trade war ended before it began, forestalling that economic reckoning and an intraparty war that Mr. Trump had created by threatening tariffs to leverage the immigration changes he demanded. That tactic had drawn stiff protests from Republicans, including many senators, who have long opposed tariffs and worried the measure would hurt American companies and consumers.
In an unusual show of force against their own party’s president, Republican senators had threatened to try to block the tariffs if Mr. Trump moved ahead with them, and had demanded a face-to-face meeting with the president before any action

6 June
IMF warns U.S. about trade risks and financial vulnerabilities
(Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund on Thursday warned the United States that escalating trade disputes or an abrupt downturn in financial markets could pose substantial risks for the U.S. economy.
The international lender, in a review of U.S. policies, said the U.S. economy was on track to grow 2.6% this year. That was quicker than the IMF’s 2.3% growth forecast from April and was boosted by easy financial market conditions.
But the IMF said a number of factors were threatening this positive outlook and it called on the Federal Reserve to hold off on interest rate hikes which would put a brake on growth.
“A deepening of ongoing trade disputes or an abrupt reversal of the recent ebullient financial market conditions represent material risks to the U.S. economy,” IMF staff said in a report.

5 June
Trump wavers after saying NHS must be on table in US-UK trade talks
On the second day of his state visit the US president set out his ambitions for a “phenomenal” post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.
… following a cross-party backlash, the president later appeared to row back on his comments. In an interview with Good Morning Britain’s Piers Morgan, he said: “I don’t see [the NHS] being on the table. Somebody asked me a question today and I say everything is up for negotiation, because everything is. But that’s something I would not see as part of trade. That’s not trade.”
Appearing earlier in the day alongside the outgoing prime minister at a joint press conference, Trump said US companies should have market access to every sector of the British economy as part of any deal, which he said could lead to a tripling of trade with the UK.
Trump’s trade war gobsmacks Mexico and Canada
Mexican and Canadian officials spent two years learning how to navigate a fractious U.S. president. Now they’re deploying those lessons to find a way out of Trump’s latest trade flare-up.
(Politico) Trump’s sudden declaration of new tariffs on Mexico last Thursday evening delivered immediate whiplash, a jolt for two countries that had — for a moment — thought they might be coming off the Trump roller coaster.

1 June
Trump’s stunning decision to escalate trade wars with China and Mexico signals a turning point for U.S. policy
(WaPo) President Trump’s plan to slap new tariffs on Mexican imports, weeks after escalating his trade war with China, leaves the United States fighting a multi-front campaign that threatens more instability for manufacturers, consumers and the global economy.

23 May
IMF Says U.S. Is Paying China Tariff Costs, Contrary to Trump’s Claim
(Bloomberg) It’s rare for the IMF to disagree with its largest shareholder, and the paper was released just as the rhetoric in Trump’s trade war with China reaches a boiling point.
“For 10 months, China has been paying Tariffs to the USA of 25% on 50 Billion Dollars of High Tech, and 10% on 200 Billion Dollars of other goods,” Trump tweeted May 5.

11 May
Paul Krugman: Killing the Pax Americana
Trump’s trade war is about more than economics.
It’s also about democracy and peace.
This is obvious and explicit in Europe, where the origins of the European Union lie in the Coal and Steel Community of the early 1950s — an agreement whose economic benefits, while real, were in a way incidental to its real purpose, preventing any future wars between France and Germany. And membership of the E.U. has always been contingent on democratization — which is, by the way, why the E.U.’s limp reaction to the de facto collapse of democracy in Hungary and, it appears, Poland represents such moral failure.
… the postwar trading system grew out of the vision of Cordell Hull, FDR’s Secretary of State, who saw commercial links between nations as a way to promote peace. That system, with its multilateral agreements and rules to limit unilateral action, was from the beginning a crucial piece of the Pax Americana. It was as integral to the postwar order as the I.M.F., which was supposed to provide a safety net for nations having balance of payments trouble, or for that matter NATO.
And Trump’s trade war should correspondingly be seen as part and parcel of his embrace of foreign dictators, lack of respect for our allies, and evident contempt for democracy, at home as well as abroad.

29 April
As trade talks reach endgame, U.S.-China ties could hinge on enforcement
(Reuters) – U.S. negotiators head to China on Tuesday to try to hammer out details to end the two countries’ trade war, including the shape of an enforcement mechanism, the success or failure of which could set the trajectory of ties for years to come.

19 March
Trump faces failing strategy on auto jobs as he heads to Ohio
(Politico) Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum have cost Ford and GM about $1 billion each. GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra cited the tariffs in November when she announced the 14,000 job cuts that included the Lordstown plant’s shuttering. Potentially making things even worse, Trump is now weighing new tariffs on foreign automobiles that could threaten hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. jobs.

6 March
Trump’s Plan to Reduce Trade Deficit Falters as it Hits an All-Time High Instead
(Fortune) President Trump’s America First policies are not having their intended effect.
The Commerce Department reported Wednesday the U.S. posted a more than $891 billion merchandise trade deficit last year—the largest in the history of the country.
Significantly, the trade deficit with China hit a record $419 billion, despite a series of tariffs the administration imposed on Chinese goods to decrease reliance on imports.
Meanwhile, the overall goods and services deficit jumped 19% between November and December 2018, to $59.8 billion, the highest monthly trade deficit in 10 years.
The data shows that Trump’s America First policies to close the trade gap haven’t had their desired effect. Americans are importing far more from abroad than they are exporting—imports grew 7.5% while exports increased only 6.3%.
What’s more, Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut enacted in late 2017 served to further fuel the deficit. The government had to borrow to pay for the cut, and some of those dollars came from foreign investors.

27 February
U.S. Trade Policy in North America, China, and Beyond
(Center for American Progress) The administration’s record on trade policy has been mixed and largely incoherent. The president railed against NAFTA and other trade agreements for harming workers and U.S. jobs yet renegotiated a new NAFTA deal that fails to make labor and environmental standards meaningfully enforceable.7 His administration has slapped tariffs on adversaries and allies alike with little strategy—often in the name of national security and without addressing the root causes of the problem. Threatening further tariffs, the administration now is engaged in negotiations with China over intellectual property theft, market access for foreign multinationals, and a state-led industrial strategy.8 The president announced a delay in the additional tariffs, suggesting a deal with China is coming together, but concerns have long existed that the administration may settle for high-profile spot sales of U.S. commodities while effectively letting structural impediments and China’s industrial policies continue.9 The cost of what may be President Donald Trump’s high-profile deal with China could be real concessions for the United States, including in the technology and national security space, without providing lasting, solidly enforceable benefits more broadly.10


6 December
Paul Krugman: The Art of the Imaginary Deal
On trade, Trump is a rebel without a clue
U.S. trade law gives the president a lot of discretionary power over trade, as part of a system that curbs the destructive influence of corrupt, irresponsible members of Congress. And that setup worked very well for more than 80 years. Unfortunately, it wasn’t intended to handle the problem of a corrupt, irresponsible president. Trump is pretty much all alone in lusting for a trade war, but he has virtually dictatorial authority over trade.
Are we going to have a full-blown trade war with China, and maybe the rest of the world? Nobody knows — because it all depends on the whims of one man. And Tariff Man is ignorant, volatile and delusional.
Why do I say that it’s all about one man? After all, after the 2016 U.S. election and the Brexit vote in Britain, there was a lot of talk about a broad popular backlash against globalization. Over the past two years, however, it has become clear that this backlash was both smaller and shallower than advertised.
Where, after all, is the major constituency supporting Donald Trump’s tariffs and threats to exit international agreements? Big business hates the prospect of a trade war, and stocks plunge whenever that prospect becomes more likely. Labor hasn’t rallied behind Trumpist protectionism either.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans believing that foreign trade is good for the economy is near a record high.

6 October
The Trump Trade Strategy Is Coming Into Focus. That Doesn’t Necessarily Mean It Will Work.
By Neil Irwin, senior economics correspondent
Taking an aggressive stance with traditional allies now seems to be just a warm-up for the main event: isolating China
(NYT) The strategy that has jelled goes something like this: The president has been beating up on traditional allies, including Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Japan and South Korea. He has been assailing them publicly, placing tariffs on their steel and aluminum, and threatening to tax their automobiles. But fundamentally, that was just about softening them up to extract moderate concessions favorable to American interests.
That has now been achieved with a trade deal with South Korea in late September and a new Nafta, now to be called U.S.M.C.A. (for United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), struck last weekend.
Now that the administration has shown it can get to yes with those deals, similarly patterned agreements with Europe and Japan are expected to come next. After revised deals with those allies are in place, the administration will most likely seek a concerted effort among them to isolate China and compel major changes to Chinese business and trade practices.
The ultimate goal, in other words, is to reset the economic relationship between China and the rest of the world. It may take time and cause pain in the interim. But the idea is it’s a multistep process to attain more leverage with which to force China to allow American companies to sell their goods and operate freely, without having their technology stolen. And it bolsters the United States in a geopolitical rivalry with China that is becoming more tense, as Vice President Pence articulated in a speech last week.
One telling piece of evidence for this strategy: a provision in the new North American deal that will make it hard for Mexico or Canada to negotiate a trade deal with a “nonmarket” economy like China without risking their favored access to the United States’ huge market.

30 August
Nafta Do-Over Distracts From the Big Trade Problem
Trump is tinkering in the face of the challenge from China
(Bloomberg) the Mexico trade shakeup might be nothing more than posturing, an attempt by Trump to fulfill an earlier promise to end Nafta, or a way to gain leverage in a showdown with Canada. Or, if the rules are enforced a certain way — requiring that Mexican auto workers quadruple their wages from current levels, or requiring car companies to move auto production from Canada to Mexico — they could cause substantial economic disruption, leaving American workers and consumers worse off. Either way, Trump’s latest trade move seems like yet another unforced error.
But Trump’s focus on scrapping Nafta mirrors a wider trend in American society — a misplaced, unhealthy obsession with the 1994 trade agreement. Both the left and the right have fetishized the relatively innocuous Nafta while paying less attention to much more important trade issues — in particular, China.
It’s China, not Mexico, that should be the sole focus of any U.S. push for fair trade. In fact, by making it easier for U.S. companies to source products from Mexico instead of China, Nafta has probably slowed China’s drive to become the economic center of the world. Every U.S. dollar that goes to Mexico instead of to China helps North America retain its status as a crucial cluster of economic activity.

2 August
In Maine and Eastern Canada, unintended consequences of Trump’s trade war on display
The lobster industry in the US is feeling the tariff pinch, but America’s loss is Canada’s gain, as Andrew Cohen reports from the island of Vinalhaven.
(Open Canada) The losers in the trade war, for now, are the same as always: manufacturers, farmers, fishermen, consumers. On the jagged coast of Maine, this means those who go to sea at dawn, brave the weather, bait their traps, and haul lobster. In the past they died in war. Today, the battle is not about their lives but their livelihoods. For that loss, there will be no granite memorial in the public square.

29 July
Ross Douthat: Why Trump Can’t Quit Tariffs
Because his other populist promises are broken, he has to keep this one.
Trump’s handling of the economy polls at 50 percent in the latest Wall Street Journal poll; his handling of trade in the same survey is underwater. His otherwise-unpopular presidency is floated on jobs and economic growth, and trade wars can be bad for both. So why not just drop the mercantilism and let the good times roll?
The answer gets at the dilemma of the Republican establishment in the age of Trump. The party’s senators generally have a better grasp of facts than the occupant of the White House, but the president often has a better grasp of politics. And the political truth is that Trump probably needs his tariffs, needs his trade war, to have any chance of re-election — precisely because it’s the only remaining economic issue where he’s stuck to his campaign promises and hasn’t just deferred to traditional Republican priorities.

27 July
Don’t Believe the Hype About Trump’s Trade Deal with the European Union
(The New Yorker) Be grateful for small mercies. The ceasefire in the transatlantic trade skirmish that Donald Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, agreed to at the White House on Wednesday may prove to be only temporary. But at least the meeting didn’t end with the world’s two largest economies descending into a full-scale trade war.
For averting an immediate crisis, we have Juncker to thank. The sixty-three-year-old former Prime Minister of Luxembourg—who says Trump described him last month as “a brutal killer,” maybe intending it as a compliment—craftily packaged together a number of small concessions and previously agreed upon initiatives which allowed Trump and his allies to hail the agreement as an American win. “This is a real vindication of the President’s trade policy,” Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, told reporters as he travelled to the Midwest with Trump on Thursday.
In reality, the Europeans gave up little except their prior refusal to negotiate under threat. Juncker’s pledge that the E.U. would import more U.S.-grown soybeans, for instance, formalized something that was likely to happen anyway.
After the meeting, Trump declared that Europe will start buying “vast amounts” of U.S. liquified natural gas (L.N.G.), which is produced in Texas, Pennsylvania, and other states. At least in the short term, that is unlikely to happen, because Europe has cheaper sources elsewhere, including Norway and Russia. …
In a prescient briefing published last week, The Economist noted that E.U. officials wanted to persuade the Trump Administration to pursue grievances against China through the World Trade Organization (W.T.O.), the global ruling body for trade disputes, rather than by dishing out tariffs unilaterally. The article also noted that Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, a key player in the Trump orbit, is not necessarily averse to this idea. “Comfortingly, there is mounting evidence that Mr Lighthizer is not out to torpedo the WTO,” the article said.

26 July
Tariffs Once Tore the GOP Apart—and May Be Doing So Again
It’s only a matter of time before rural voters again learn what their forebears knew: Protectionist policies are rigged against them.
[Since the time of the Founding Fathers] Tariff policy was one of the most divisive issues in American politics, because its costs and benefits were unevenly distributed. Protectionist policies offered windfalls to large corporations while burdening small businesses and farmers with higher prices. That stirred bitter resentments in less industrialized, agricultural regions, fueling North-South discord before the Civil War, and inflaming Midwestern populism in the early 20th century, splitting political parties in the process. If Trump continues his protectionist course, it could happen again.

25 July
Hoping to avert an all-out trade war, the EU’s top official meets Trump in Washington.
(Quartz) Juncker will come armed with the kinds of statistics that remind Trump that the US and EU economies are roughly the same size and both mutually prosper from the trading status quo.
Juncker might also hope to convince Trump that his oversimplified focus on the $150 billion trade deficit with the EU is not the result of European swindling, but instead the result of a better-performing US economy (paywall).

24 July
The White House admits its trade war is hurting farmers — and loses some leverage
(WaPost) The White House is set to announce what is essentially a $12 billion bailout for farmers who have been hurt by his escalating trade war
The move isn’t terribly surprising, given the White House has telegraphed it and even acknowledged farmers would be taking one for Team America. In the same set of April remarks above, Trump called farmers “great patriots” who “understand that they’re doing this for the country.”
But this step is also tacit acknowledgment that the trade war is hurting people in the United States, and it also would seem to provide leverage for the countries Trump says are anxious to come to the negotiating table and make concessions. If the U.S. government needs to bail farmers out as a consequence of the trade war, other countries such as China have less incentive to give in. There is also a clear limit to how much Trump can use this method to prop up farmers: $30 billion.
Part of the problem with trade wars is they require patience and pain before the ultimate payoff. These farmers and their allies need to place trust in Trump that it will ultimately be okay — that he will deliver, when all is said and done. The new announcement may reassure them that the administration won’t let them wither, but as with any war, there is never a guarantee of success. And the longer it drags on — and this step suggests it will drag on — the more difficult it will be to maintain that faith.
Trump’s move may staunch the bleeding, but the point is that there is bleeding.
‘Tariffs Are the Greatest,’ Trump Tweets Before Juncker Meeting
(Bloomberg) House Speaker Paul Ryan expressed reservations that tariffs were the best approach.
“I just don’t think the tariff route is the smart way to go,” Ryan told reporters on Tuesday. Ryan added that while Trump is seeking “a better deal for Americans, better trade agreements — I just don’t think tariffs are the way to go, and our members are making that pretty clear.”
U.S. companies and industry groups are finding it increasingly difficult to escape the impact of Trump’s tariffs. More than 80 witnesses are scheduled to testify during a two-day trade hearing starting in Washington Tuesday focused on products from resins and chemicals to large freight containers, electric bicycles and vaping devices. Most of the companies and business groups that have filed comments are seeking to have goods spared from duties on grounds the tariffs are ultimately a tax on consumers and hamstrings them with their global supply chains.

21 July
Dependent on trade, Mike Pence’s hometown takes a hit due to Trump’s tariffs
(WaPost) According to the Brookings Institution, the Columbus area is the most export-reliant region in the country, with just over half of its economic output linked to foreign purchases. … Pence’s hometown oozes internationalism: 40 foreign companies have a presence, more than half of them Japanese engines and auto-parts plants, employing almost 10,000 people. The area’s schools collectively speak 51 languages. The city ranks second in the nation in the per capita percentage of H-1B visas for foreign workers.

11-12 July
Trade War With China in Aisle 12

Commercial Real Estate Implications of the Steel and Aluminum Tariffs
When the temporary exemptions on steel and aluminum tariffs granted to Canada, Mexico and the European Union expired on May 31, 2018, the commercial development industry found itself faced with a sudden and dramatic increase in construction costs. … where developers and contractors had previously held out hope that these major steel and aluminum sources would avoid tariffs, they are now faced with a new question: what do they do now? While some have sought exemptions under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, the process is complicated and exemption approval is far from certain. The end result is that many are speculating about the cost of end products and the likelihood of future projects. But it is important to consider the tariff’s impact on construction projects already in development.

U.S. senators blast Trump on trade, vow to press for change in policy
(Reuters) – Republican and Democratic U.S. senators blasted Trump administration trade policy on Thursday and vowed to press ahead with legislation to give Congress a say in decisions to impose tariffs on national security grounds.
Joshua Bolten, chief executive of the non-partisan Business Roundtable, a grouping of corporate CEOs, told the committee that business leaders worry the economic gains from Trump-backed tax reductions and cuts in regulation would be offset by trade policies that will raise prices and cost American jobs

Senate overwhelmingly rebukes Trump with tariff vote
(CNN) For the second day in a row, the Senate pushed back on President Donald Trump, showing stiff resistance to his key policy decisions on tariffs and NATO even as the President is at a summit in Europe wrestling with allies over those same issues.
Senators voted overwhelmingly Wednesday calling on Trump to get congressional approval before using national security as a reason for imposing tariffs on other nations, as he did recently with steel and aluminum levies against Mexico, Canada and the European Union.
The bipartisan 88-to-11 tally on the non-binding resolution sends a message to the White House about how frustrated senators are over Trump’s disruptive moves on tariffs.

Japan and the EU ink a free-trade deal. As Trump’s trade war gathers pace, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and EU representatives meet to sign the pact today in Brussels. EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström called it “the biggest and most advanced bilateral agreement ever negotiated by the European Union.”

China vows to retaliate as US threatens tariffs on further $200bn of goods
Trade skirmish continues to escalate between world’s two biggest economies
The Trump administration has raised the stakes in its trade war with China, saying it would slap 10% tariffs on an extra $200bn worth of Chinese imports.
The administration released a wide-ranging list of Chinese goods it proposes be hit with tariffs, including hundreds of food products as well as tobacco, coal, chemicals and tyres, dog and cat food, and consumer electronics including television components.

9 July
Greg Sargent: Trump’s delusions are about to blow up in his own voters’ faces
(WaPost) Numbers provided to me by the Brookings Institution suggest that those consequences will most directly impact the counties that voted for Trump. Indeed, the numbers show that China has taken aggressive steps to sharpen its targeting of Trump counties in the latest round of retaliatory tariffs it just announced.
This morning, Politico reports on the backstory leading up to Trump’s trade war. Trump has been ranting for decades about other countries “ripping off” the United States on trade. Now that hostilities are escalating, Politico notes that Trump has “no clear exit strategy and no explicit plans to negotiate new rules of the road with China, leaving the global trade community and financial markets wracked with uncertainty.”
Nearly two-thirds of the jobs in industries targeted by China’s tariffs — a total of more than 1 million jobs — are in more than 2,100 counties that voted for Trump. By contrast, barely more than one-third of the jobs in China-targeted industries — just over half a million — are in the counties that voted for Clinton. (This is based on 2017 county/employment data.) This doesn’t mean those jobs will definitely be lost; it means that they are in industries that are getting caught up in Trump’s trade war, making them vulnerable, depending on what happens.
China’s retaliatory tariffs are mainly aimed at U.S. exports of agricultural and food products such as soybeans, cereal, seafood, meats, fruits and nuts, and dairy, as well as intermediate goods and transport equipment, including vehicles.

8 July
Mohamed A. El-Erian: A “Reagan Moment” for International Trade?
In the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan initiated a military spending race with the Soviet Union that ended up altering the global balance of power in ways that affected many countries worldwide. Could Donald Trump’s tariff race with China lead to a similar outcome?
(Project Syndicate) Many existing trade agreements would benefit from modernization. And most economists agree that the US has genuine trade grievances against China, including intellectual property theft, asymmetrical technology transfers, and non-tariff barriers, such as the requirement that foreign companies enter joint-venture agreements with domestic firms to access the Chinese market.
But most economists also agree that competitive tariffs are a risky way to address these grievances. Because tariffs transmit stagflationary pressures (that is, they encourage simultaneous economic contraction and inflation), they risk undermining a global recovery that is already facing challenges. And they complicate long-overdue monetary-policy normalization, while increasing the likelihood of global financial instability. The resulting systemic cracks could jeopardize the entire rules-based multilateral trading system at a time when there is no good alternative.

6-7 July
Paul Krugman: How to Lose a Trade War
Trump obviously believes that trade is a game in which he who runs the biggest surplus wins, and that America, which imports more than it exports, therefore has the upper hand in any conflict. That’s also why Peter Navarro predicted that nobody would retaliate against Trump’s tariffs. Since that’s actually not how trade works, we’re already facing plenty of retaliation and the strong prospect of escalation.
But here’s the thing: Trump’s tariffs are badly designed even from the point of view of someone who shares his crude mercantilist view of trade. In fact, the structure of his tariffs so far is designed to inflict maximum damage on the U.S. economy, for minimal gain. … almost none of the Trump tariffs are on consumer goods. Chad Bown and colleagues have a remarkable chart showing the distribution of the Trump China tariffs: an amazing 95 percent are either on intermediate goods or on capital goods like machinery that are also used in domestic production:
Trump Has Already Started Four Trade Wars—and Counting
A brief guide to Donald Trump’s multifront tariff war
(The Atlantic) The new U.S. tariffs affect $34 billion worth of goods from China, which has retaliated with its own penalties on American exports. Trump is now fully embroiled in a multifront trade war in which the combatants include both close U.S. allies and rivals—all in the service of what Trump characterizes as a more equitable global trading system. Mainstream economists and trade experts, meanwhile, say tariffs are hardly an effective way to address inequities in trade, and they may hurt consumers and manufacturers by making imported goods and their component parts more expensive.
Yet tariffs are President Trump’s chosen prescription as he takes on America’s largest trading partners in a battle that could have broad consequences for American companies, farmers, and consumers—not to mention the entire global economy. Each of the countries Trump has targeted so far has retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. imports. And those measures have specifically targeted U.S. industries in politically consequential states. What follows is a list of the major fronts in Trump’s ongoing trade war, and the blows struck so far:

2 July
Trump is single-handedly trying to blow up international trade
A leaked bill from the administration shows that he’s eager to ditch the WTO
(Vox) The Trump administration has drafted and is contemplating proposing a bill that would effectively pull the US out of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and upend the global trading order.
According to Axios, which obtained a leaked draft of the bill, Trump himself ordered his administration to craft the legislation and was briefed on the draft in late May.
The draft bill, titled the “United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act,” calls for the US to ignore some of the core WTO rules that govern how countries are allowed to treat exports from other countries.
Among other things, it would authorize the administration to unilaterally ignore the “Most Favored Nation” principle that says that countries have to treat all their trading partners equally (although countries are granted exceptions to the principle when they share membership in free-trade agreements like NAFTA).
Trump Official: The Market Could Plummet to Zero and Trump Wouldn’t Change His Trade Policies
(Vanity Fair) As Donald Trump’s actions on trade have enraged allies, dragged down the market, and literally sent American jobs overseas, many have wondered whether the president would realize his approach isn’t working and back down, or willfully continue down a path of certain destruction. And based on new reports, it appears he’s going with option B! Rather than acknowledge that dragging the U.S. into trade wars on multiple fronts is a terrible idea that no one outside of his craziest advisers wants, Trump is apparently trying to figure out a way to give himself unchecked power to impose unlimited tariffs on any country in the world without justification. According to Axios, a leaked draft of a Trump administration bill would essentially “declare America’s abandonment of fundamental World Trade Organization rules” by allowing the president to raise U.S. tariffs at will, “without congressional consent and international rules be damned.”

The bill, titled the “United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act,” would give Trump unilateral power to ignore the two most basic principles of the W.T.O. and negotiate one-on-one with any country: a) the “Most Favored Nation” (M.F.N.) principle that countries can’t set different tariff rates for different countries outside of free-trade agreements; and b) “bound tariff rates”—the tariff ceilings that each W.T.O. country has already agreed to in previous negotiations.

21 June
World Bank: Trump Is Driving The U.S. Into A Major Economic Meltdown
According to The Hill, the World Bank said in its Global Economic Prospects report that increases in tariffs would have “severe consequences” for global trade – especially if those tariffs exceed limits determined by the World Trade Organization
“A broad-based increase in tariffs worldwide would have major adverse consequences for global trade and activity,” the report reads. “An escalation of tariffs up to legally-allowed bound rates could translate into a decline in global trade flows amounting to 9 percent, similar to the drop seen during the global financial crisis in 2008-09.”

19 June
Plainly, he does not understand the difference between tariffs and import duties
Donald Trump claims Canadians are ‘smuggling’ shoes back to Canada because tariffs are so high

15 June
Trump’s China Tariffs Met With Retaliation Vow From Beijing
(Bloomberg) The response from China signaled a rapid escalation of the dispute. China will impose tariffs with “equal scale, equal intensity” on imports from the U.S. and all of the country’s earlier trade commitments are now off the table, the Commerce Ministry said in a statement on its website late Friday.
President Donald Trump on Friday pledged more tariffs if China follows through on the retaliation threats, without specifying an amount. In April, he asked officials to consider an additional $100 billion in levies. Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said an announcement on U.S. investment restrictions on China will follow in the next two weeks.
China criticizes ‘fickle’ Trump over tariffs
(The Hill) China’s Ministry of Commerce issued a highly critical statement on Friday calling on countries to take “joint actions” against the United States over President Trump’s actions on tariffs.
Trump announced Friday morning that the U.S. would impose 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese products.

14 June
What is Trump trying to hide by blaming Canada? The answer may be frightening.
(WaPost) In recent conversations here, European officials cast a more sinister light on what they think Trump has in mind in picking very public fights with America’s closest allies and the institutions they and the United States have created to instill some order and fairness in the international system. These officials fear that Trump is laying the groundwork for a U.S. decision to withdraw from the World Trade Organization, the 164-nation body that adopts and enforces global rules of trade and provides dispute settlement mechanisms when conflicts between nations arise.
Trump may be dreaming that undoing the world’s rules of trade would let America’s overwhelming economic power reorder global trade balances in this country’s favor. The president may welcome such a very Trumpian, dog-eat-dog world. But even if that is not Trump’s intent in whipping up popular anger against globalization, such a world could well be the result of the reckless course he has chosen.

1 June

For a tariff to do any good, let alone to seem justified, it must have two elements: a reason for starting, and a reason for ending.
The reason for starting, the cause for applying the tariff in the first place, is whatever the other country has done that you find objectionable. The reason for ending is that the other country has halted or changed that practice. The whole object in applying the tariff is to get back to the position where you can remove it, because the other country has stopped doing what you considered wrong
.– James Fallows: Tariffs Can Work—but Not Stupid Ones

31 May

White House to Impose Metal Tariffs on E.U., Canada and Mexico

The Trump administration said on Thursday that it would impose steep tariffs on metals imported from its closest allies, provoking retaliation against American businesses and consumers and further straining diplomatic ties tested by the president’s combative approach.
The European Union, Canada and Mexico, which will face 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, quickly denounced the action and drew up lists of tit-for-tat measures, many aimed at parts of the United States where President Trump enjoys his strongest political support.
After the tariffs took effect on China, Russia, Japan and Turkey in late March, prices on steel and aluminum broadly began to rise.
American metal manufacturers say that has helped to level the playing field. Century Aluminum, which has supported the tariffs, said the action “protects thousands of American aluminum workers and puts U.S. national security first.”
But it has left businesses that rely on imported metals, like beer makers, auto manufacturers and others, exposed. And now that the tariffs will hit America’s closest allies, some early supporters are changing their view.
Mexico aims tariff countermeasures at key Republican-contested districts
(Global) Mexico retaliated almost immediately against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum on Thursday, focusing on products from congressional districts President Donald Trump‘s Republican party is fighting to retain in November elections.
“It sends a clear message that this kind of thing does not benefit anybody,” Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said in an interview on Mexican radio about the measures against U.S. products ranging from steel to grapes.

22 May
Who’s winning the trade war? Everyone but Trump.
Even as China and the U.S. push toward a trade deal, the long-term trends in global trade are still against American producers.
(Politico) There may be new winners as President Donald Trump ramps up trade pressures on China: America’s top competitors.
Brazil could bring millions of new acres of land into production faster with the help of Chinese investments in its roads and railways, a boom for soybean farmers seeking an edge over U.S. farmers. In Europe, Airbus is poised to ramp up production to fill Chinese orders that were originally meant to go to U.S.-based Boeing. Australia, Canada and other countries may be able to export the scrap aluminum and other recyclables the U.S. used to send to China en masse.
Beijing will continue to pour resources into other countries to diversify its sources for everything from food to consumer goods to meet growing demand. And that worries American manufacturers and growers who stand to lose market share to competitors whose governments are friendlier to global trade.

15 May

Trade War: How Tensions Have Risen Between China, the EU and the US
The multilateral trading system has been challenged by unilateralist measures and subsequent threats of retaliation. We collect the main events that have shaped the current situation and show which trade flows have been and will potentially be affected by the various measures. We end by discussing possible scenarios moving forward for the EU.
(Bruegel) In the event of a full-fledged China-US trade war, trade diversion constitutes a risk to the EU, as the redirection of flows towards the EU may cause an impairment of the position of local industries. Furthermore, greater protectionism may also induce higher production costs and a slowdown of Global Value Chain participation (through the channel of intermediate goods), possibly affecting technology diffusion and productivity growth. However, such a crisis might also bring opportunities for EU industries if there is production and innovation capacity to cover the void left by tariff schemes. Thus, one of the key questions is to what extent the goods affected by bilateral tariffs are substitutable and can somehow be shifted around to other destinations.
In practice, the raising of bilateral tariffs will likely create substantial distortions for the global economy that would also affect the EU, bringing some opportunities but also creating costs for industries. However, a deal between the US and the EU could also have negative consequences for the EU as new trade could be created and the EU would potentially lose access, at least in relative terms. It is time for the EU to reflect on its options in global trade, and to reduce the vulnerability of its industries to the global challenge that Trump and China pose.

Trump tweet brings sense of relief, uncertainty at China’s ZTE
(South China Morning Post) Trump defended his move to help the Chinese company on Monday after coming under bipartisan criticism that it could jeopardize national security.
China’s No. 2 telecommunications-equipment maker had ceased most operations after the U.S. imposed a seven-year ban on its ability to buy technology from American suppliers. But Trump, in a stunning reversal, posted on Twitter that he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are working together to give ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast.” He added that he had asked his Commerce Department to “get it done” because of concern over jobs in China.
Trump’s tweet appeared to be a step back from the brink, a gesture that he is ready to negotiate. It came just as China’s Vice Premier Liu He — Xi’s top aide for economic matters — plans to head to Washington Tuesday for trade talks with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. China made its own goodwill move: The country’s Ministry of Commerce restarted its review of an acquisition by Qualcomm Inc., a deal that is critical to the U.S. chipmaker’s future, according to people familiar with the matter.
The most difficult part of negotiations between the world’s two largest economies lies ahead however. They still haven’t worked through thorny issues of trade deficits, tariffs, currency valuations and alleged theft of intellectual property. Indeed, Mnuchin traveled to Beijing last week for trade talks that resulted in little but an agreement to keep talking.

13 May
Disarray Plagues U.S. Companies’ Efforts to Win Tariff Exemptions
(NYT) In the two months since the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs went into effect, the Commerce Department has been deluged with more than 8,200 exemption requests from companies that import foreign metals. With just a handful of countries temporarily exempted from Mr. Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, companies are scrambling to win exemptions for every screw and spring they import, with each width and length requiring stand-alone filings. One company alone has submitted 1,167 of the filings, according to government officials.
The imposition of tariffs was supposed to help protect American companies from foreign competition. But they have also created a chaotic, time-consuming process and provoked deep uncertainty among executives, who are delaying investment, expansion and hiring as a result.

4 May
(Quartz) The US ordered China to reduce its trade surplus immediately. According to a document seen by a Wall Street Journal reporter, China has been asked to cut its bilateral trade imbalance by $200 billion by 2020 and stop subsidizing advanced technology. The US trade delegation is expected to wrap up its talks in Beijing today

2 May
Economists Invoke Great Depression in Warning to Trump on Trade
(Bloomberg) More than 1,100 economists, including Nobel laureates and former presidential advisers, have signed a letter warning Donald Trump about his tariff-heavy approach to trade. Many of its passages quote directly from another letter sent in 1930, cautioning against protectionist measures the U.S. imposed at the start of what became the Great Depression.
“Congress did not take economists’ advice in 1930, and Americans across the country paid the price,” the economists say in the letter, due for release Thursday. “Much has changed since 1930 — for example, trade is now significantly more important to our economy — but the fundamental economic principles as explained at the time have not.”
The letter, organized by the Washington-based National Taxpayers Union, comes as the Trump administration travels to China this week for talks aimed at averting a trade war and weighs whether to permanently exempt allies from steel and aluminum tariffs. Those disputes are clouding the outlook for the U.S. economy, which is now in its second-longest expansion on record.

1 May
U.S. President Donald Trump has postponed the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, the European Union and Mexico until June 1, and has reached agreements for permanent exemptions for Argentina, Australia and Brazil, the White House said.
(Reuters) In a statement, the White House said the details of the deals with Brazil, Argentina and Australia would be finalized shortly, and it did not disclose terms.
“The administration is also extending negotiations with Canada, Mexico, and the European Union for a final 30 days. In all of these negotiations, the administration is focused on quotas that will restrain imports, prevent transshipment, and protect the national security,” the White House added.

5 April
Economist: Trump trade war will cost 190,000 jobs
(Axios) In addition to the multi-day bloodbath on Wall Street, the U.S.-China tariffs war will cost 190,000 American jobs thus far and shave a smidgen of GDP growth from the economy, projects Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.
What they’re saying: For months, President Trump has continued to gripe about the cost to U.S. workers of the U.S.-China trade imbalance. But, if Zandi is more or less right, the tit-for-tat trade attacks that he set off last week will cut close to a month’s average growth in U.S. jobs, and 0.14% from this year’s growth in GDP. “And the economic costs will mount quickly if the back-and-forth tariff hikes continue,” he tells Axios. … The soy bean example: As a window into why the economy will take this hit should the tariffs go ahead, look at soy beans. In a note to clients today, Goldman Sachs said U.S. soybean exports to China are worth $14 billion. To the degree the tariffs stay on, Latin American producers including Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay are likely to increase their planting, and potentially take away business from U.S. farmers.
Joseph Stiglitz: Trump’s Trade Confusion
US President Donald Trump’s recently announced import tariffs on steel, aluminum, and $60 billion in other goods that the US imports from China each year are in keeping with his record of responding to nonexistent problems. Unfortunately, while Trump captures the world’s attention, serious real problems go unaddressed.
(Project Syndicate) Even if Trump had no economists advising him, he would have to realize that what matters is the multilateral trade deficit, not bilateral trade deficits with any one country. Reducing imports from China will not create jobs in the US. Rather, it will increase prices for ordinary Americans and create jobs in Bangladesh, Vietnam, or any other country that steps in to replace the imports that previously came from China. In the few instances where manufacturing does return to the US, it will probably not create jobs in the old Rust Belt. Instead, the goods are likely to be produced by robots, which are as likely to be located in high-tech centers as elsewhere.
Trump wants China to reduce its bilateral trade surplus with the US by $100 billion, which it could do by buying $100 billion worth of US oil or gas. But whether China were to reduce its purchases from elsewhere or simply sell the US oil or gas on to other places, there would be little if any effect on the US or global economy. Trump’s focus on the bilateral trade deficit is, frankly, silly.
Predictably, China has answered Trump’s tariffs by threatening to respond to their imposition with tariffs of its own. Those tariffs would affect US-made goods across a wide range of sectors, but disproportionately in areas where support for Trump has been strong.

1 April
China Slaps Tariffs on 128 U.S. Products, Including Wine, Pork and Pipes
(NYT) The Chinese government hit back Monday at President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum by acting on a threat to put tariffs as high as 25 percent on imports of 128 American-made products, including pork and seamless steel pipes.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce indicated that the tariffs, which it first publicly suggested almost two weeks ago, were intended to pressure the Trump administration to back down from a simmering trade war. In addition to imposing additional tariffs on steel and aluminum from China and other countries, President Trump has threatened to put protective duties on other Chinese-made products worth $60 billion.
“We hope that the United States will rescind its measures that violate World Trade Organization rules as quickly as possible,” the ministry said in an online statement about China’s retaliatory tariffs. “China and the United States are the world’s two biggest economies, and cooperation is the only correct choice. Both sides should use dialogue and consultation to resolve their mutual concerns.”

23 March
American Farmers Are Collateral Damage in Trump’s Trade War
“Folks are getting pretty nervous.”
(Mother Jones) From the Midwest’s soybean fields to nut groves out West, US farmers look to absorb the bulk of the showdown’s fallout. That’s because cargo boats that arrive in US ports packed with Chinese-made smartphones and metals return in large part stuffed with US-grown food, including soybeans, pork, fruit, and nuts. Since we export around five times as much food to China as we import from the country, a US-China trade war won’t change much about the price of your food—if anything, the domestic gluts it could create might make items like meat and nuts a little cheaper here. In farm country, though, it’s a different story.

19 March
Which U.S. states are most exposed to the EU’s retaliatory tariff proposal?
(Brookings) [T]he products on the EU list accounted for $8.2 billion worth of U.S. exports to the EU in 2017, or 3 percent of the total ($283 billion). As we have documented before, U.S. states vary in their exposure to trade policy shifts based on their core export industries and top destination markets. New York, for instance, exports $1.5 billion worth of goods under the Commission’s scrutiny, including $1 billion of jewelry and other precious metals. The states of leading congressional Republicans would also face these custom duties. California, the home of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is the third most exposed state in volume, exporting $700 million worth of goods included in the list to the EU. The tariffs would also affect exports of electrical machinery from Texas, the state of Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, as it exported to the EU for $143 million.

13 March
Republicans must choose: Trump or trade?
(WaPost Editorial Board) PRESIDENTIAL POWER over trade and tariff policy is a little-known but crucial, and enduring, legacy of the New Deal. Reacting to the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff enacted by a Republican Congress in 1930, the Democratic Congress under President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed legislation empowering the executive branch to set tariffs through reciprocal bargains with other nations. … Among many reasons President Trump’s declaration of new tariffs on steel and aluminum, ostensibly on national security grounds, represents a potentially radical departure in U.S. trade policy is that it shows what can happen when this legal authority, designed for an era of trade-promoting presidents, suddenly falls into the hands of a protectionist.

9 March
The Politics of Trade Wars
Europe has gotten another American president to back down on tariffs—by targeting products produced in politically sensitive districts.
(The Atlantic) The ironic effect of a nationalist trade gesture was to demonstrate how much politics can be global, namely when Europe threatened retaliatory tariffs affecting iconic American goods and, not incidentally, key congressional districts in the United States.
The European Union is the second-largest exporter of steel to the U.S. (behind Canada), and said after Trump first proposed the tariffs that it would consider imposing counter-measures against American exports to Europe, including bourbon whiskey and Harley Davidson motorcycles.
(LA Times) The same South Korean envoys who told Trump about Kim’s desire to meet also carried a request: Please exempt Korean steel exports from your newly announced tariffs.
Given South Korea’s key role in brokering the nuclear negotiations, there’s a good chance Trump will agree. As Don Lee explained, the tariff order that Trump announced on Thursday “looks less like an effort to preserve national security and more like an attempt to create a giant bargaining chip that the president can play around the world.”
In practice, he announced that, at least for now, he would exempt imports from Canada, the largest exporter of steel to the U.S., and Mexico, the fourth largest. South Korea is No. 3 on the list. Together, those three countries accounted for 38% of U.S. steel imports in 2016, according to the government’s International Trade Administration.
If South Korea wins an exemption, can Japan, another key ally in the North Korea negotiations, be left out? They’re No. 6 on the list. (Brazil and Turkey are the other two sources in the top five).
China, which Trump often talks about as his chief target, is No. 11, and its direct exports to the U.S. have dropped sharply to just about 3% of U.S. imports. Steel-industry analysts say, however, that Chinese overproduction of metals accounts for much of the global surplus that has driven down prices. [NB U.S. allies line up for exemptions from Trump’s aluminum, steel tariffs , e.g. Turnbull Says Trump Promised Him Exemption on Metals Tariffs]
“We’re going to be very flexible,” Trump said — a promise that will do little to reassure companies that rely on steel or aluminum to build cars, planes and a host of other products and who want to know what prices they will face.
As Lee noted, until mid-week, White House officials had been saying that specific carve-outs for individual countries were not planned because they would be too difficult to implement.
Trump had justified the tariffs on national security grounds, but undermined that argument on Monday when he suggested he would use them as leverage in the NAFTA negotiations with Canada and Mexico. That statement could weaken the administration’s legal case if the tariffs are challenged either in court or before the World Trade Organization.
Dani Rodrik: Trump’s Trade Gimmickry
(Project Syndicate) The imbalances and inequities generated by the global economy cannot be tackled by protecting a few politically well-connected industries, using manifestly ridiculous national security considerations as an excuse.
As Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker point out, Trump’s tariffs are likely to benefit a small minority of workers in protected industries at the expense of a large majority of other workers in downstream industries and elsewhere. The imbalances and inequities generated by the global economy cannot be tackled by protecting a few politically well-connected industries, using manifestly ridiculous national security considerations as an excuse. Such protectionism is a gimmick, not a serious agenda for trade reform.
A serious reform agenda would instead rein in the protection of drug companies and skilled professionals such as physicians, as Bernstein and Baker argue. It would address concerns about social dumping and policy autonomy by renegotiating the rules of the WTO multilaterally. And it would target areas where the gains from trade are still very large, such as international worker mobility, instead of areas that benefit only special interests.

8 March
Paul Krugman: Oh, What a Trumpy Trade War!
There’s a reason we have international trade agreements, and it’s not to protect us from unfair practices by other countries. The real goal, instead, is to protect us from ourselves: to limit the special-interest politics and outright corruption that used to reign in trade policy.
Some background: Contrary to what some seem to believe, textbook economics doesn’t say that free trade is win-win for everyone. Instead, trade policy involves very real conflicts of interest. But these conflicts of interest are overwhelmingly between groups within each country, rather than between countries.  … The small groups that benefit from protectionism often have more political influence than the much larger groups that are hurt. That’s why Congress used to routinely pass destructive trade bills, culminating in the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930: Enough members of Congress were bought off, one way or another, to enact legislation that almost everyone knew was bad for the nation as a whole. In 1934, however, F.D.R. introduced a new approach to trade policy: reciprocal agreements with other countries, in which we exchanged reduced tariffs on their exports for reduced tariffs on ours. …
F.D.R.’s reciprocal agreement approach led to a rapid unwinding of Smoot-Hawley, and after the war it evolved into a series of global trade deals, creating a world trading system that these days is overseen by the World Trade Organization. In effect, the U.S. remade world trade policy in its own image. And it worked: The global deals that evolved from the reciprocal tariff approach greatly reduced tariff rates around the world, while setting up rules that constrain countries from backtracking on their commitments. … Under U.S. trade law, which is written to be consonant with our international agreements, the president can impose tariffs under certain narrowly defined conditions.
… Trump is in effect both violating U.S. law and throwing the world trading system under the bus. And if this escalates into a full-scale trade war, we’ll be back to the bad old days. Tariff policy will once again be driven by influence-peddling and bribery, never mind the national interest.

7 March
Take that, Trump: WTO can authorize Canada to hit U.S. with $3.2B in retaliation measures
‘If you think hitting Paul Ryan would be a way to get Trump to remove the tariffs, maybe pick products from his district in Wisconsin’
(National Post) Canada would be entitled to trade retaliation measures of US$3.2 billion if U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum are found to have violated World Trade Organization rules, according to a report from the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Relying on data from the Trump administration’s own models, the report found that Canada would endure the toughest trade losses under the tariffs. Of a total US$14.2 billion in losses imposed on partners, the European Union would take the next largest hit at US$2.6 billion followed by South Korea and Mexico at around US$1 billion each, according to Chad Bown, senior fellow at the institute and author of the report.

6 March
An Important Voice for Free Trade Proponents Goes Silent
(NYT) Gary D. Cohn is a Democrat, but his resignation as director of the White House National Economic Council on Tuesday actually underscored the fundamental divide between President Trump and his fellow Republicans as the president seeks to raise barriers to foreign trade.
From his perch in the West Wing, Mr. Cohn in effect served as a proxy for the business wing of the Republican Party as it fought what may be a losing battle against new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. His departure deprives free trade proponents of perhaps their strongest voice inside Mr. Trump’s inner circle.
Trade has always been the iron curtain that divided Mr. Trump and establishment Republicans. The president argues that other countries have run roughshod over the United States when it comes to the exchange of goods and services while most Republican leaders in Washington maintain that lower barriers have helped keep the United States as the world’s leading economic powerhouse.
See also Trump Steel Tariffs: How They May Threaten Allies and Economic Growth and How Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs could affect state economies

3 March
Trump was angry and ‘unglued’ when he started a trade war, officials say
(MSN) Trump’s policy maneuver, which may ultimately harm U.S. companies and American consumers, was announced without any internal review by government lawyers or his own staff, according to a review of an internal White House document.
According to two officials, Trump’s decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues and the result of a broken internal process that has failed to deliver him consensus views that represent the best advice of his team.

2 March
Updated version of an article published on Nov. 15, 2017
Economic history shows why Trump’s ‘America First’ tariff policy is so dangerous
By Charles R. Hankla, associate professor of political science at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
(The Conversation) President Trump assumes the U.S. can act unilaterally without consequences.
Economic history shows this doesn’t work. The world’s economies are far more interdependent than they were during the Great Depression, so the impact of governments all following a “my country first” trade policy – as the president said he expected world leaders to do – could have disastrous consequences.

23 – 24 January
Donald Trump’s tariffs on panels will cost US solar industry thousands of jobs
Trump’s decision to impose a 30% tariff will cost the US around 23,000 jobs and risks slowing the growth of clean energy, advocates warn
Trump has imposed a 30% tariff on foreign-made solar cells and modules, with the White House expressing alarm at a huge rise in imported components “spurred on by artificially low-priced solar cells and modules from China”.
But solar installers warned that the tariff, which will reduce to 15% within four years, will cost US jobs rather than protect them.
The Solar Energy Industries Association said 23,000 jobs would be lost in 2018, pointing out that most solar manufacturing in the US revolves around making parts for cheaper imported panels, rather than the cells and panels themselves.
The installation of panels accounts for around 130,000 further jobs. … But while the tariffs may provide an unwelcome hurdle for the US solar industry, the cost of the technology and installation has dropped so precipitously in recent years that the industry could emerge relatively unscathed. The cost of installing solar panels on rooftops has fallen by more than 70% since 2010, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Solar now accounts for around 1.4% of US utility-scale electricity generation, up from virtually nothing in 2007.
Trump imposes steep tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines
Restrictions aim to boost US manufacturing, but critics warn they will slow shift to renewable energy and increase consumer costs

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