May 25, 2022

Trump’s trade war against European allies is about to backfire bigly

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Continuing his irresponsible strategy designed to alienate America’s most loyal allies and launch a disastrous trade war with our closest friends, President Trump is moving ahead as soon as tomorrow with plans to place steep tariffs on imports of aluminum and steel. 

Despite personal pleas from the president of France and the chancellor of Germany, Trump’s proposed 10 percent tariff on aluminum and a 25 percent tariff on steel till take effect on Friday.  Those tariffs will raise the cost of everything from American autos to aluminum awnings, according to the Wall St. Journal.

The E.U. has also made clear it will trigger a nasty response with new tariffs on American goods like jeans, motorcycles, and bourbon, and on agriculture products of about $3.3 billion.

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The American Chamber of Commerce in the E.U. has asked Trump to provide a permanent exemption from the metals tariffs to preserve important relationships.  “The EU is America’s staunchest ally,” they tweeted, “not a U.S. national security threat.”

In a tweet today, they added:

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You would be hard pressed to believe there is a special relationship between the countries that have been part of the Atlantic Alliance since World War II if you heard U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Paris today, lumping France and Germany in with China as threats to our economy.

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After Trump announced in March plans for the tariffs “for national security interests,” talks began with the E.U. and others including Argentina and Brazil to carve out permanent exemptions.  Trump gave them a deadline of Friday this week to reach a deal.

In Paris today, Ross blithely said, “There can be (further) negotiations with or without tariffs, it’s not that you can’t talk with tariffs.”

China is an interesting case in point,” added Ross. “They are paying the tariffs, they came into effect in March and they haven’t used this as an excuse not to talk.”

“It’s only the E.U. insisting,” snorted Ross, “we can’t negotiate if there are tariffs.”

The negotiations with China, which is not an ally in the same sense as Germany and France and most of the other 23 EU countries, have been an on again, off again mess of changes and contradictions.

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The one breakthrough was in favor of the Chinese when Trump worked out a deal to save a big telecommunications company that has violated the U.S. sanctions in Iran and North Korea.

That happened shortly after China made a huge investment in a theme park project in Asia in which The Trump Organization has an interest.

Maybe that’s what the EU needs to do – finance a couple Trump hotels and golf courses in Europe, and then the president might show as much interest in jobs there as he is in jobs in China. 

Maybe that is what it will take to avoid a full-scale global trade war that will lead the U.S. into an unwanted, unnecessary recession just to prove the egomaniac author (in name only) of The Art of The Deal can actually make a deal.

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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