December 18, 2018

President Trump Formally Orders Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Imports

14 March 2018, 09:57 | Devin Moran

Associations Issue Statements On Recent Steel And Aluminum Tariffs

Factbox: Trump's steel, aluminum trade tariffs, Mar 12

US President Donald Trump is seeking to impose tariffs on up to US$60 billion (S$78 billion) of Chinese imports and will target the technology and telecommunications sectors, a source who had discussed the issue with the White House said on Tuesday (March 13).

Higher steel and aluminum company profits will therefore come at the expense of these other American manufacturers - exporters like Caterpillar and Harley-Davidson are already warning that the tariff would put them at a competitive disadvantage in world markets.

The U.S. economy, boosted by a $1.5 trillion tax cut that Trump signed previous year, is on a solid footing and the unemployment rate of 4.1 percent is the lowest since 2000.

A tariff is a tax imposed on items imported to the U.S. The proposed 25 and 10 percent tariffs on steel and aluminum will make imported metals more expensive, increasing domestic production of these metals. He might not understand the basic economic implications of his most recent moves, but Trump surely gets the politics of angering his base. So, pressure on the Trump administration to act to protect its metal producers will remain while the Nafta talks continue.

"Right now, half the country thinks that the president is a lunatic, and they have very little confidence in his rational approach to issues, so they are anxious about politics as an issue", said Auth.

The tariffs will affect a wide range of products, including high-tech gadgets, food, furniture and beverages. Foreign companies will have to pay a 25 percent tax for steel and 10 percent for aluminum sold on the U.S. market.

But in wartime, aluminum and steel are essential to make tanks, planes and other weapons. That is the case with the uneven tariff situation with other nations, and quite a few of them are our allies. The steelmakers "don't really need tariffs", he says.

Import taxes will tend to drive already exorbitant United States construction costs even higher, hurting commercial development around the country. GATT and WTO took as given the level of tariffs existing at the time. All a trade deficit shows is that a country sells us more than we sell them.

"These measures could make a significant impact on the economic and cooperative relationship between Japan and the USA, who are allies", said Japan's foreign minister, Taro Kono.

A meeting in Brussels between Malmstrom and her USA counterpart Robert Lighthizer on Saturday ended without a breakthrough, as the European Union didn't receive reassurances that it will be exempted from metal tariffs.

In the U.S. market, sales of Chinese steel have plunged due to earlier tariffs of up to 522 per cent imposed on some products to offset what Washington says are improper subsidies to producers. The White House is reportedly still drawing up the legal paperwork for an executive order that would bring the tariffs into effect.

The levies form part of a package of measures which the President insists are for "national security" reasons. Pain which does not improve the economy is hard to justify.

The goal here is to enable the United States to seize a larger share of the gains from trade.

That's because far from being broadly dispersed, steel consumers are heavily concentrated in the construction and automotive industries - which have very powerful political lobbies of their own. The tariffs will increase the cost of manufacturing in the US, reducing output and employment in industries using these metals. The construction industry would take the biggest hit.

"We can not have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others", Trump told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Canadian Steel Producers Association issued a statement that "welcomed Canada's exemption from the tariffs", and noted that the association continued "to support the dialogue between Canadian and United States governments to ensure our integrated markets remain open and that our respective supply chains collectively grow, while continuing to address global excess steel capacity issues".

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