Moving targets

Trump: We're going ahead with tariff plan, but Canada and Mexico are exempt

By —— Bio and Archives--March 8, 2018

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Trump: We're going ahead with tariff plan, but Canada and Mexico are exempt
Canada is the biggest exporter of steel to the United States, by far. It sends us more than 10 times as much steel as China. And it’s now going to be exempt from the Trump tariffs, along with Mexico.

This has to be a precursor to a new NAFTA deal, doesn’t it?


President Donald Trump pressed ahead with the imposition of 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent for aluminum on Thursday but exempted Canada and Mexico, backtracking from earlier pledges of tariffs on all countries.

Describing the dumping of steel and aluminum in the United States as “an assault on our country,” Trump told a news conference that the best outcome would for companies to move here and insisted that domestic production was needed for national security reasons.

“If you don’t want to pay tax, bring your plant to the USA,” he said.

Details of the plan came from a briefing by administration officials ahead of Trump’s speech. Other countries can apply for exemptions, according to the administration, although details of when they would be granted were thin.

Trump has offered relief from steel and aluminum tariffs to countries that “treat us fairly on trade,” a gesture aimed at putting pressure on Canada and Mexico to give ground in separate talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which appear to have stalled.

Trump has also demanded concessions from the European Union, complaining that it treated American cars unfairly and has threatened to hike tariffs on auto imports from Europe.

Per the passage in bold, this sounds like an attempt to get other countries to come forward with trade concessions that might also earn them exemptions. Of course the details of when they would be granted are thin. Because Trump wants complete and total discretion to negotiate deals and decide when he has an offer he wants to accept.

I’ve sort of suspected all week that this was a negotiating play, and it sounds like one now more than ever. Canada and Mexico get off because Trump wants to negotiate separately with them and put his signature on NAFTA 2.0. Other countries may or may not get off depending on what they bring to the table.

Tariffs are bad policy. They always cost consumers and the business community writ large more than they help individual companies, and they hurt economic growth far more than they help it. Trump is playing a dangerous game here, but it’s a classic Trumpian play. He always thinks the deal in place is inferior to the one he would have negotiated, and he likes to throw down the gauntlet and try to prove it.

Maybe he’ll be right. I sure hope so. If he’s not, he’s needlessly endangering the economic growth his own wise policies are setting the stage for.


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Dan Calabrese -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by HermanCain.com, which can be found at HermanCain

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