White House Looks to Slash China's Bilateral Trade Surplus by $100 Billion

Donald Trump’s trade policy pales in comparison to the scale and scope of the protectionist policies of president Ronald Reagan’s administration in the 1980s

Baldwin reaction to Trump tariffs mixed

"Trump isn't just threatening trade tariffs, he wants to tear up the entire worldwide order".

President Donald Trump's new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are facing an avalanche of false criticism. Now that time is past, in President Trump's view, and, I suspect, in the view of most Americans.

The data highlighted the relatively robust picture of China's and also the global economy - the latter is slated to grow this year by 3.9 per cent, according to the International Monetary Fund's forecast in January.

The present situation is better than a trade war; but that does not mean it is fair to America. Free trade is trade without government intervention. Countries promised to meet regularly to try to lower tariffs. All nations are nominally in favour of free trade, but not free markets. If cheaper imports displace local steel and aluminium producers, they must be stopped because a country must make its own key products, according to the Trump philosophy of America First. Other countries feel similarly. "You're opening the door to this form of protection by other countries", he says. The basis for liberal trade is destroyed and the old rationale for protectionism is revived. Many countries have expressed displeasure with the decision and chose to take various measures to retaliate.

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Mistrust between the long-time allies has increased since Trump became president a year ago, and the US tariffs proposal has acerbated ill feelings. That approach would prevent a vicious spiral of ever higher tariffs that often occurred before GATT was instituted. A "Made in America" comeback would revive the manufacturing industry we've slowly been losing to other countries and boost the economy and workforce. These exemptions for reasons unrelated to security exposes the security rationale as fake.

And whether Trump ultimately implements his proposed tariffs or eventually backs down, as many suggest he will, those long-standing and essential trading partners will have learned one thing: The United States is now an unreliable, unpredictable and unreasonable trading partner.

".The fear is the United States and China could hurt each other quite badly in a trade war". Many countries condemned the USA measures being unilateral and for misusing the national security rationale. "However, it will affect most to export driven companies and those in close cooperation for technical exchanges", said Zhang Xin, an analyst with Zhongtai Securities. If, on the other hand, the USA were to lose, the rhetoric would be "WTO undermines U.S. national security". China argued the over-protected domestic industry will never be able to serve its problems through protectionism.

China has already warned that it will take "strong measures" to protect its interests against the new tariffs. The US would then be much more unrestrained to undertake further protectionist measures. True, it might well have lost the case in the WTO as President Bush did in 2003.

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On Wall Street, the Dow Jones was down around 1 percent, thanks in part to hefty losses at industrial companies like Boeing, which had been down more than 4 percent before regaining some ground Wednesday afternoon.

Trump has said that the tariffs are necessary on national security grounds, but European Union trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom insisted this is a ruse: "We suspect that the USA move is effectively not based on security considerations but an economic safeguard measure in disguise".

If, as expected, big action against China is announced, China will nearly certainly take equally strong retaliatory action. At that point, an old-fashioned trade war may seem irresistible, to provide distraction and political cover.

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