Tariffs that President Trump has slapped on foreign-made products are sparking a backlash not only from the countries whose goods he is targeting, but also from Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the tariffs “insulting and unacceptable,” referring to the 25 percent tax on steel and 10 percent surcharge on aluminum that the United States imports from Canada. The statement indicated that the friendly relationship between the countries is eroding as a result of Trump's protectionist trade policies. The tariffs on metals also apply to other U.S. allies in the European Union and Mexico.
Trump claimed the taxes are necessary to protect national security, an argument that Trudeau rejected on NBC's “Meet the Press.” The prime minister declared: “We're putting the same kinds of tariffs exactly on steel and aluminum coming from the United States into Canada to be directly reciprocal. But we're also putting a number of tariffs on consumer goods, finished products for which Canadians have easy alternatives.” Canadian officials have threatened to tax U.S.-made cheese, whiskey, orange juice and other goods.
Trudeau noted that “one of the truths about tariffs is they drive up costs for consumers,” adding: “On top of that, these tariffs are going to be hurting American workers and Canadian workers.” The prime minister cited the trade penalties when he called off his visit to the United States that had been set for the first week of June. He pointed out that Canada is the top consumer of U.S.-manufactured steel, and that the United States has a $2 billion trade surplus with its northern neighbor.
French President Emmanuel Macron described the tariffs as “not only unlawful, but a mistake in many respects.” He cautioned that “economic nationalism leads to war.” Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray dismissed the taxes as “unjust and unilateral.”
Trump also has proposed increased tariffs on goods from China, prompting that country's officials to suggest they might not honor any of their economic and trade agreements with the United States. They said the deals were “based on the premise” that there would be no trade war. The president has expressed his determination to reduce the United States' $375.2 billion trade deficit with China. He recently threatened to establish a 25 percent tariff on the Asian nation's high-tech goods, even though China pledged last month to “significantly increase” its purchases of U.S. products.
China and the United States are at odds on other issues, as well. Defense Secretary James Mattis continues to rail against weapons installations the Chinese government has placed on manmade islands. “China's policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness that our strategy promotes,” Mattis said. “It calls into question China's broader goals.” Chinese official He Lei stressed that there is “a sovereign and legal right for China to place our army and military weapons there.”
Throughout his campaign and since entering the White House, Trump has pledged to reduce the nation's trade imbalances. He has accused other countries of taking advantage of the United States, harming American workers in the process. Still, his decision to punish key U.S. allies came as a surprise to many. “The idea that our soldiers who had fought and died together on the beaches of World War II, on the mountains of Afghanistan and have stood shoulder to shoulder in some of the most difficult places in the world, that are always there for each other — this is insulting to that,” Trudeau said.
The tariffs will likely be a contentious issue at the upcoming G-7 summit in Canada, which Trump plans to attend. The finance ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom issued a statement expressing their “unanimous concern and disappointment.” Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that “the Americans have decided to take an action that is not at all constructive, (and) is actually destructive.”
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News that “good-faith negotiations are welcome, and we hope to continue (at the summit).” He said Trudeau was “overreacting,” and insisted that the tariffs do not have “anything to do with our friendship and long-standing alliance with Canada.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that he was “standing up” for Trump's policy. However, in a CNN interview, the California Republican warned that “nobody wins a trade war.”
Some other GOP members of Congress are criticizing the tariffs. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said he is one of those who is concerned about Trump using his power “in ways never intended and that are damaging to our countries and our allies.” Corker asked Democrats to join him and other “like-minded Republican senators on ways to push back on the president.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted that the tariffs would “slow, if not impede significantly, the progress we are making economically for the country.” House Speaker Paul Ryan said “I disagree” when asked about Trump's decision.