Trump’s attack on US allies doesn’t make a lot of sense


Mahoning Valley Con- gressman Tim Ryan takes a backseat to no one when it comes to demanding fair trade globally, which is why his reaction to President Donald J. Trump’s latest edict is noteworthy.

“The decision could be a disaster if not overturned soon,” said Ryan of Howland, D-13th, of Trump’s decision to place a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Indeed, leaders north and south of the border and in Europe have promised to retaliate by imposing tariffs on certain American-made products.

Ryan, who has been a very vocal critic in Congress of artificially low-priced foreign products being dumped in the U.S., got to the heart of matter when he said this of Trump’s decision:

“Of particular concern, we are punishing our friends in Canada and Europe who have similar – and in some cases, stronger – worker protections and environmental standards. Meanwhile, President Trump is more concerned about letting China off the hook than protecting American workers. This dangerous approach furthers the interests of Russia and China by weakening the friendships and alliances that helped us win World War II and the Cold War and propelled the United States to be the leader in the world for the last 75 years.”

As we said at the outset, nobody can accuse the Valley congressman of being soft when it comes to the unfair trade practices of countries that aren’t particularly friends of the United States.

Indeed, we have joined him in calling for federal government polices that would end the dumping of steel and steel products from China, Russia, India, Brazil and the like .

On March 22, Ryan sent a letter to the president urging him to impose tariffs on bad actors such as China and Russia and not on our allies.

He warned that tariffs on this country’s allies could lead to significant damage to the economy. Many economists share the congressman’s concerns, which is why we urge the Trump administration to take a step back and consider the ramifications of starting a trade war with Canada, Mexico and the EU.

ALLIES WERE TO BE EXEMPTED

Earlier this year, we applauded the president for imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and for specifically targeting China. At the time, Trump said America’s allies would be exempted.

That is why last week’s announcement was so puzzling.

“The president seems to be creating trade (and other) disputes with everyone – allies and adversaries alike – and it’s difficult to discern any coherent” strategy, Rod Hunter, a former National Security Council staffer under President George W. Bush, told the Associated Press. “The impacts of the disputes have been limited so far, but the economic and political costs will go up as retaliation by trading partners begins in earnest.”

We have no qualms about punishing China, Russia and other countries that have made it possible for their companies to dump goods on the U.S. at artificially low prices. But targeting Canada, for instance, doesn’t make sense given the long-standing close relationship that exists between our two nations.

Indeed, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blasted Trump’s decision as “insulting and unacceptable” because he used “national security” to justify the tariffs.

“Canada is a secure supplier of aluminum and steel to the U.S. defense industry, putting aluminum in American planes and steel in American tanks,” Trudeau said. “That Canada should be considered a national security threat to the United States is inconceivable.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, vowed there would be reciprocal tariffs in response.

“The U.S. leaves us no choice but to proceed with a WTO [World Trade Organization] dispute settlement case and the imposition of additional duties on a number of U.S. imports.”

Why would Trump risk an economic war with America’s allies while hedging on his public pledge to come down hard on China?

As we noted in an editorial last week detailing the business interests in China of a company owned by the president’s daughter, Ivanka, the administration has backtracked on its plan to impose tariffs worth $150 billion on Chinese imports.

Trump has imposed 25 percent tariffs on Chinese steel and 10 percent on aluminum and has talked about another $50 billion in tariffs on other products.

China is poised to penalize $50 billion in U.S. goods.

As the possibility of a full-blown global trade war grows, the United States will need its allies to protect its flank. That’s why the tariffs against Canada, Mexico and the European Union are so risky.

The president should change his mind.

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