Trump imposes steel and aluminum tariffs on the E.U., Canada and Mexico
By David J. Lynch, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta
President Trump on Thursday imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada and Mexico, triggering immediate retaliation from U.S. allies and protests from American businesses and farmers.
The tariffs — 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum — take effect at midnight Thursday, marking a major escalation of the trade war between the United States and its top trading partners.
Stung by the U.S. action, the allies quickly hit back. The E.U. said it would impose import taxes on politically sensitive items like bourbon from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. Mexico said it would levy tariffs on American farm products, while Canada zeroed in on the same metals that Trump had slammed.
Capping the extraordinary day, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed that he had rejected an ultimatum from Vice President Pence that any new North American trade deal be renewed at five-year intervals.
“Today is a day when the Trump administration pretty much signaled it is throwing out the rule book on trade,” said Rufus Yerxa, head of the National Foreign Trade Council and a former U.S. negotiator. “I’ve been dealing with this stuff for four decades and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
After 17 months in the White House, Trump’s “America First” program has landed the United States in increasingly bitter standoffs with customers and suppliers that account for nearly two-thirds of the nation’s $3.9 trillion annual merchandise trade.
Businesses granted government protection, such as the steel industry, have added jobs at blast furnaces in Illinois and mills in Ohio. But chemical manufacturers, brewers, footwear makers and auto companies have warned that Trump’s tariffs will cost several jobs elsewhere in the economy for each job saved or created in a metals producer.
Thursday’s action was driven by the president’s conviction that allies and adversaries routinely take advantage of the United States and that efforts to resolve trade disputes are doomed unless he wields a big tariff stick.
Recent talks with the three U.S. trading partners made insufficient progress for him to resist his inclination to order new import taxes. “He is impatient. He wants to see action,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.