The proclamations by US President Donald Trump to impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminium received mixed reaction from stakeholders with some seeing it as a step that would revive the manufacturing sector while others warned it would lead to a trade war. Trump today signed two proclamations that impose 25 per cent tariff on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminium. While one section hailed it as a “historic” decision that would bring back jobs to the US and revive manufacturing sector, another warned of an adverse impact on the American economy and cautioned that it would lead to a trade war.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that Trump is taking action today to protect “both our national security and critical industries” to the economy. “The President’s decision are the result of a long and well thought-out process led by the Commerce Department. Once again, President Trump is keeping his promises and standing up for American families, American businesses, and American workers,” Ross said.
Under Trump’s leadership, America has a robust trade agenda that supports national security, US Trade Representative Robert E Lighthizer said. “The President is once again demonstrating he will protect our country, fight for American workers and strictly enforce our trade laws. I will work closely with other Cabinet officials to advise the President on how to implement the program on steel and aluminium that he announced today,” he said.
Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Trump’s decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports will not protect America. “Reminiscent of failed protectionist trade policies of the past, this decision will harm the American economy, hurt American workers, and damage relations with America’s allies and partners,” he said.
McCain said America should confront China’s “unfair” trade practices, including its attempts to circumvent existing anti-dumping tariffs and its pilfering of American invention and innovation through coercion and outright theft. “Trump squandered perhaps the most important opportunity to do that when he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It is fitting that on the very day Trump finalised these protectionist tariffs, the TPP-11 countries signed the trade pact without us. As a result, American businesses and consumers will not benefit from the advantages free trade brings,” he said.
McCain said Trump compounded that mistake by forfeiting the opportunity to take targeted action to hold China accountable for its behaviour in international trade. “Instead, he chose to adopt sweeping tariffs that will punish our most important allies and partners all around the world. This strategic mistake will only succeed in undermining the credibility of American leadership on free and open trade, and risk driving our allies and partners closer to China,” he said.
Sharing Trump’s concerns regarding Chinese steel overcapacity, Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was disappointed by the administration’s approach to this problem and ultimate decision to use a rarely used national security provision to implement new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
“A better way to level the playing field for American companies would be to rally our friends and allies to advance a robust, targeted effort to ensure that only those responsible for excess global capacity pay a price,” he said.
“Unfortunately,I fear this announcement could have far-reaching unintended consequences that will put at risk the hard-fought economic gains US businesses have seen over the past year,” Corker said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he disagrees with this action and fear its unintended consequences.
“I am pleased the president has listened to those who share my concerns and included an exemption for some American allies, but it should go further. We will continue to urge the administration to narrow this policy so that it is focused only on those countries and practices that violate trade law,” Ryan said.
“There are unquestionably bad trade practices by nations like China, but the better approach is targeted enforcement against those practices. Our economy and our national security are strengthened by fostering free trade with our allies and promoting the rule of law,” he said.
Defending the action, the White House said Trump is addressing global overcapacity and “unfair trade practices” in the steel and aluminium industries by imposing the tariffs.
It said the strengthening of domestic steel and aluminium industries will reduce “our reliance on foreign producers”.