Americas US politics

Trump's 'trade war' sparks confusion in White House with possibility some countries will be exempt from new steel tariffs

Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on whether some countries could be exempt from new US tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.

In an interview with Fox, Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro said the President would not give some countries different treatment in applying the newly announced levies of 10 per cent for aluminium imports and 25 per cent for steel.

“As soon as he starts exempting countries, he has to raise the tariff on everybody else. As soon as he exempts one country, his phone starts ringing from the heads of state of other countries”, Mr Navarro told Fox’s Chris Wallace, who had asked if America would exempt allies like Canada or European nations. In a CNN interview, he said “there would be no country exclusions”.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross left the possibility open during an interview on Meet the Press, saying: “We shall see”.

“I know that there are a lot of ministers from a lot of countries have been talking with the president, they’ve been talking with me, they’ve been talking with others”, Mr Ross said.

The President’s announcement that he would impose steep tariffs on the metals reverberated across world markets, raising the spectre of a trade war growing out of Mr Trump’s protectionist instincts.

Hitting back, the European Union said it would retaliate with tariffs on blue jeans, bourbon and Harley Davidsons – iconic Americans products that, in the latter two cases, have their industry’s headquarters in states represented by Republican leadership in Congress.

Mr Trump responded by threatening escalation. He had already said he was unperturbed by the possibility of a trade war, calling such disputes “good” and “easy to win”.

“If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on US companies doing business there, we will simply apply a tax on their cars which freely pour into the US”, Mr Trump said on Twitter. “They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!”
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Administration officials have rejected the notion that the fallout could hit American consumers, with Mr Ross saying “Retaliation isn’t going to change the price of a can of beer”. In a separate interview, Mr Navarro predicted “negligible to nothing effects” on prices.

“I think the American people are willing to pay a cent and a half more for a six pack of beer in order to have an aluminium and steel industry”, he said.

Source: Independent Money News

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