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Trump embracing potential for trade war

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is embracing the potential for a trade war after announcing his intent to place tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, as he rebuffs allies who have pushed to be exempted from the stiff duties.
The protectionist policy will be made official in the next two weeks, White House officials said Sunday, as the administration defended the decision from critics in Washington and overseas.
Trump appeared unbowed Sunday, as he tweeted that American “Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change!”
Trump’s pronouncement Thursday that he would impose tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, on imported steel and aluminum, roiled markets and rankled allies. While his rhetoric has been focused on China, the duties will also cover significant imports from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Japan and the European Union.

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with steel and aluminum executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House. --Photo AP

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said: “At this point in time there’s no country exclusions.”
The across-the-board action breaks with the recommendation of the Pentagon, which pushed for more targeted tariffs on metals imports from countries like China and warned that a wide-ranging move would jeopardise national security partnerships. But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversaw reviews of the industries that recommended the tariffs, said Sunday ABC’s “This Week” that Trump is “talking about a fairly broad brush.”
Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said the sweeping action would let China “off the hook,” adding the tariffs would drive a wedge between the US and its allies.
“China wins when we fight with Europe,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“China wins when the American consumer has higher prices because of tariffs that don’t affect Chinese behavior.”
Trump has threatened to tax European cars if the EU boosts tariffs on American products in response to the president’s plan to increase duties on steel and aluminum.
British Prime Minister Theresa May raised her “deep concern” at the tariff announcement in a phone call with Trump Sunday.
May’s office says she “raised our deep concern at the president’s forthcoming announcement on steel and aluminum tariffs, noting that multilateral action was the only way to resolve the problem of global overcapacity.”
But Ross rejected threats of retaliation from American allies as “pretty trivial” and not much more than a “rounding error.”
Few issues could blur the lines of partisanship in Trump-era Washington. Trade is one of them. Labor unions and liberal Democrats are in the unusual position of applauding Trump’s approach, while Republicans and an array of business groups are warning of dire economic and political consequences if he goes ahead with the tariffs.
Trade politics often cut along regional, rather than ideological, lines, as politicians reflect the interests of the hometown industries and workers. But rarely does a debate open so wide a rift between a president and his party — leaving him almost exclusively with support from his ideological opposites.
“Good, finally,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat and progressive as he cheered Trump’s move. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, a Democrat who has called for Trump to resign, agreed.
“I urge the administration to follow through and to take aggressive measures to ensure our workers can compete on a level playing field,” Casey tweeted.
This moment of unusual alliance was long expected. As a candidate, Trump made his populist and protectionist positions on trade quite clear, at times hitting the same themes as one of the Democratic presidential candidates, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

(Latest Update March 6, 2018)


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