The Trump administration may have finally launched the trade war many feared was coming.
The president on March 8 signed proclamations that impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports into the US, to go into effect in 15 days. Two countries would be exempt from the tariffs, at least for now: Canada, the top exporter of steel and aluminum to the US, and Mexico, the fourth biggest exporter of aluminum.
Protecting the US steel industry from foreign competition has been a top priority for Trump’s trade team since day one. They’ve framed the issue as a fight to preserve jobs for American steelworkers, who have seen their jobs disappear as a result of automation and globalization.
It’s not unusual for presidents to target certain imports that harm US industries — Barack Obama slapped duties on certain Chinese steel imports in 2016. What’s unusual about these tariffs is that they’ll end up affecting allies like the European Union and South Korea, which are major exporters of steel into the US. Those allies have assailed the Trump administration’s move — and have even threatened to respond in kind, meaning the US may soon be in a trade war with its closest friends in the world.