Allies, rivals alike hit out at Trump trade tariffs

What's happening with Donald Trump's tariffs?

In a sharp reversal from decades of a US-led drive towards more open trade, Trump declared on Thursday that America had been "ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices".

For other countries, including United States allies, Trump said on Thursday that the U.S. is open to negotiations to modify or drop the tariffs for individual exporters.

Despite objections by many business trade groups, by most Democrats and Republicans, and by a number of advisers in the Trump administration, the United States president forged ahead with his plan on Thursday, keeping a promise he made during his 2016 presidential campaign. Since Feb. 28, the day before Trump's initial tariff announcement, the small-cap Russell 2000 has climbed about 4 percent compared with a almost 1 percent rise for the S&P 500, the large-cap benchmark index peppered with multi-national companies.

Trump's authority to establish the tariffs stems from a Commerce Department investigation that found that imports of the metals pose a risk to national security.

If the entire cost were passed to consumers, which may not be possible, it could add about $300 to the price of the average vehicle, said Kristen Dziczek, director of Center for Automotive Research's Industry, Labor & Economics Group.

"If you really think there's going to be mass layoffs in the automotive industry over one half of 1 percent", he said, "you're wrong". The chaos in the White House is making our economy and world markets less stable. In public and in private, Trump still speaks frequently of his victories 16 months ago in Democratic-leaning states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and MI, where working-class white voters helped propel him to victory. Trump plans to campaign for Republican Rick Saccone on Saturday.

The EU said it hoped to be exempt from the tariffs like Canada and Mexico are, or that the issue might be solved in worldwide arbitration at the World Trade Organisation. Democrats lowered rates in 1846; Republicans raised them in 1862, during the Civil War; Democrats lowered them in 1913; Republicans raised them in 1922.

Even those who find reason to support the move should be concerned about whether such a protectionist stance is good for the economy as a whole, and by the impulsive manner in which the plan was hatched to appeal to the president's political base.

An escalation into a trade war could reduce future growth expectations and equity valuations, according to UBS strategists. "There may be people who lose less".

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has repeatedly expressed his displeasure with the proposed tariffs, said in a statement that he disagreed with the action.

"We have to protect & build our Steel and Aluminum Industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military", Trump wrote in a Thursday morning tweet. Along with the US, the two nations make up the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is largely aimed at stemming such punitive tariffs.

The European Union is seeking clarity from Washington about whether the 28-nation bloc will be exempt from President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, the EU's top trade official said Friday.

The exemptions for USA trading partners in North America are part of a broader negotiating strategy from Trump's administration.

Economic analysts warn that a trade dispute sparked by the tariffs could damage communities that backed the president in 2016. Probably not as much as initially hoped (or feared).

Yet there's more than a little danger that Trump is miscalculating.

  • Julie Sanders