Trump’s move to tax some imports creates its own risks for US
President Donald Trump’s move Tuesday to tax imported solar cells and washing machines is meant to make good on his vow to reverse decades of U.S. support for free trade and to protect American jobs from foreign competition.
But the tariffs – already denounced by China, Germany and Mexico – are likely to heighten tensions between the U.S. and its trade partners, slow the U.S. solar-installation business and raise prices for American consumers. And even touchier trade cases lie ahead, involving China’s overproduction of steel and aluminum and its theft of trade secrets, with consequences for American industry and workers.
Trump had campaigned on the argument that foreign nations had long outmaneuvered the U.S. at the negotiating table and had unfairly subsidized their own industries at the expense of American jobs. He pledged to return manufacturing jobs to America by killing or renegotiating trade deals and cracking down on such countries as China and Mexico that sell more to the U.S. than they buy from it.
Almost as soon as he took office, Trump abandoned an Asia-Pacific trade pact negotiated by the Obama administration. And Trump’s trade team is engaged in a contentious effort to rewrite the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
But until Tuesday, the administration had not imposed major tariffs on imported goods. It is now slapping an immediate tariff of 30 percent on most imported solar modules; the rate will gradually phase out in four years. For large residential washing machines, tariffs will start at up to 50 percent and phase out after three years.